Ramen Yamadaya, SF Japantown - It's Yummy! Report w/ PICS
- hhc Jan 5, 2014 10:38 AM
Ramen Yamadaya, a chain from Los Angeles, is now in SF Japantown. It's at the old Iroha cuz those signs are still seen, I never ate there. It's upstairs from Shabu-Sen on Buchanan that Pedestrian area.
Got there around 5:15pm because they open at 5:30pm and knew there would be a line. There was only 3 other people ahead of me so I was happy. They have a sign-up sheet so did that & waited.
Got seated in the booth that probably can seat 4. There are several 2-top tables, I think they plan to bring more for that empty spot in the middle, not sure when. You get Free tap iced water.
We got the Tonkotsu Ramen (basic pork broth ramen) $8.95 - Oh boy, that broth is magical. You have to try it if you like pork! Noodles are more like Chinese thin noodles - not the best, but ok. One small, but thick piece of pork was very tender, some sesame, green onions, bamboo. Get it!
Kakuni pork belly $3.50 - It's looks like a huge slab of pork belly. We just ate the meat & left the fat. It was a bit dry without the fat.
Ask for Fresh Garlic that's FREE - you'll get 6 cloves of garlic & a garlic press to use. It's nice.
Separate bathrooms near the front door on the Left.
Go Early & eat Fast, because there's a line & people are waiting for your seats!
Mon, W-Sun 11:30-3; 5:30-9
Thanks! I didn't know about this - I love tonkotsu ramen and I'm so glad to see another place to try.
Wow, I had the complete opposite reaction. I only went once and ordered the tonkotsu yamadaya bowl with some garlic crushed into the broth.
For starters the chashu was inedible. Overcooked to the point where the fat was rubbery. The pork belly was in a similar state. The broth was okay. The noodles were soft and in my opinion a bit overcooked.
I had the kara-age combo and this too was overcooked. Tough and stringy chicken meat.
I guess I can go back and try another bowl. Maybe it was just a bad night. For comparison I had a bowl at Waraku recently, which is around the corner, and it was much better.
I liked these, too. I agree with ajyi that the chashu is terrible, but I found the broth in the tonkotsu kotteri both porkier and better seasoned that Waraku's. The noodles are the thin, white Hakata-style noodles; mine were just barely firm enough to begin with, but softened up quickly despite a torrid pace of consumption. I'll try to specify firmness next time, but I think these noodles are cooked pretty quickly - I'm not sure it'll make a huge difference.
We had the spicy tonkotsu and the tonkotsu kotteri bowls; I preferred the latter, where the black garlic oil does a lot to bring out the porkiness of the tonkotsu broth. The side of pork belly is a very generous portion, as you can see from hhc's pictures; I ate more than my half.
It's funny - ramen is one of those things where the whole is not necessarily equal to the sum of the parts. When I look at individual ingredients, it seems like it's a pretty close call - I don't like the chashu much at either location, I prefer Waraku's egg, I like Yamadaya's broth and noodles, though Waraku's certainly aren't bad (I've found Waraku's broth to be better seasoned in our last couple of trips). But when I think of my overall experience, my first impression is that they're really not that close.
As of the moment, I prefer Ramen Yamadaya to Waraku on the basis of broth, noodles and temperature, but I think I'll need a few more bowls to really decide!
I went here on Monday night and have to say that it is one of the better broths that I have had in a long time. I had the tonkotsu Kotteri broth. Rich fatty (almost chunky texture), nice savoriness without too much salt and without an overbearing "porky" flavor that I sometimes find a little murky. Well balanced with the slightly salty generously sized piece of pork belly. Unfortunately, I really disliked their noodles. No chew, no bounce and, to be frank, about halfway through the bowl, found them to be nauseatingly mushy (i.e. inedible). Maybe it's a different style, but they seemed to lack the alkalinity that would help them hold their shape in hot broth and/or were overcooked to begin with. Egg was pretty average. so many SF ramen joints nail the slow cooked marinated egg, it seems like taking a little extra time to get it right would be worth your while. Did love the broth though. My DC and I decided next time we would get broth and pork belly here and go to waraku for the noodles and egg, then combine and enjoy in the courtyard.
I had a chance to try Yamadaya last month on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Arriving after 2pm, I only had a couple people ahead of me and did not have a long wait for a seat at the communal table. Stepping from the waiting area into the dining room was like walking into a steam room.
I ordered the Yamadaya ramen bowl with kotteri tonkotsu broth, plus kakuni on the side.
Kotteri refers to a thick, rich and creamy style, and this collagen-rich stock hit that mark. The black garlic oil was a good complement. It’s been some time since I’ve tasted full on traditional Japanese salt level and this was a shock to the system. But the complex porcine soup resonated deeply . . . between guzzles of water. Thanks to the comments here, I’d asked for the thin Hakata-style noodles less boiled. That kept them from softening too fast.
The egg was barely seasoned and while not cooked hard, the yolk was set, not runny.
Toppings for Yamadaya ramen also included strips of wood ear, scallions, and very funky fermented bamboo shoots (menma). Too putrid for me, I removed the menma from the bowl.
The loin slices of chashu were on the chewy side, but tasty.
As others have mentioned, the pork belly was inedible, both the pieces in the bowl and the slab on the side. Too tough to chew or break apart readily with chopsticks, even the fat was rubbery. When my server asked if I wanted a box for the remains, I told him that it was not edible and described everything wrong with it. He apologized but did not take it off my bill.
When I was in SoCal last year, I had asked a ramen-head chowpal which place I should experience next after Tsujita and Santouka. He had recommended Ramen Yamadaya. I have not tried it yet down there, but I’ve got to believe that it is putting out a better product than this. The slipshod execution here reminds me of the difference between Santouka in San Jose and the one in Torrance. Somehow the powers that be seem to not put their best foot forward when they expand to the Bay Area and we wind up with sloppy seconds.
Ramen Yamadaya enters the ramen ranking at #28.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
9. Shin Shin Men Men, 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
10. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
11. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
12. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
13. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
14. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
15. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
16. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
17. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
18. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
19. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
20. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
21. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
22. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
23. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
24. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
25. Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St, San Francisco
26. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
27. Tamashii Ramen House, 3288 Pierce St, Richmond
28. Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
29. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
30. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
31. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
32. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
33. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
34. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
35. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
36. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
37. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
38. Casino Bar and Grill, Bodega
39. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
40. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
41. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
42. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
43. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
44. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
45. Noodle Me, America’s Cup Village concession, San Francisco
46. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
47. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
48. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
49. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
50. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
51. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
52. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
53. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
54. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
55. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
56. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
57. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
58. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
59. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
60. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
61. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
62. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
63. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
64. Ramen Seas, 173 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
65. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
66. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
67. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
68. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
69. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
70. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
71. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
72. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
73. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
74. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
75. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
76. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
77. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
78. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
79. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
80. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
81. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
82. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
83. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
84. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
85. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
86. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
87. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
88. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco (closed)
89. Chotto, 3317 Steiner St, San Francisco
90. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
91. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
92. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
93. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
94. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
95. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
96. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
97. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
98. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
99. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
100. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
101. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
102. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
103. Ramen Tomo, 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
104. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
105. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
106. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
107. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
108. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
re: Melanie Wong
I mean this in the nicest possible way, but based on that rather lengthy list of personal ramen ranking, you really owe it to yourself to go to Tokyo.
It kind of reminds me of my list of shitty Mexican or Pho places I used to go to for a desperate taste of home while living in Tokyo. Cheering when someone opened a mediocre Chipotle rip off in Roppongi is not something to be proud of. Neither is crying tears of hopelessness into your bowl of ramen while in Santa Clara or San Mateo.
Apparently, another LA ramen chain is coming to the Bay Area soon. Jinya Ramen Bar plans to open in Oakland. Don't know location or opening date. Also, not sure if it's a franchise or an expansion branch by the LA owners. Most people say that it's better than Yamadaya. Jonathan Gold praised Jinya in 2010.
Back in 2013 Jinya expanded to NY, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Houston. They planned to come to SF then, but for some reason they didn't. They closed the NY branch last month. Perhaps too much competition? who knows.