Matt has eaten here already and claimed it was one of the best Ramen’s he’s had in the Bay Area so far. Bold Statement, I had to try it for myself.
The owners of SANTA RAMEN are also the owners of RAMEN DOJO, one of the more popular Ramen joints in San Mateo. This is the new location of their original restaurant, a bigger establishment which houses more noodle-slurpers than either Dojo or the original Santa location. We arrived at 11:45am and just in time too, by noon, the place was packed and there was a 17 person line-up to get in… always a good sign.
There are three types of Ramen’s to order: Classic, Pork Cheek and Pork Belly. Within those are a few choices for broth: Soy, Miso, Pork or Garlic Pork (note: there are no veggie broth options here). Each Ramen can be ordered regular, spicy, extra spicy or for $1.00 more, Japanese Curry can be added. Matt swore by the Pork Cheek w. Garlic Pork Broth/Extra Spicy but I wanted to see what the “classic” broth stood for before I went to the next level.
I ordered the Classic Miso Broth (which comes with noodles, mushrooms, chives, seaweed and two pieces of Chasu Pork), I added corn and a hard-boiled egg and true to form, I asked for it “extra spicy”. Within 10 minutes, the Ramen appeared.
Top marks for presentation, vivid colors and well organized toppings in the bowl. All the veggies were fresh and crisp and they meat was tender and flavorful, the all added perfectly to the overall taste of the Ramen. So let’s focus on the big four of the dish:
- SPICE LEVEL: Santa Ramen is not kidding around when they say “extra spicy”, a deep red hue in the broth, a welcoming heat on the palette and within a few slurps, perspiration on the brow. The best part? Despite the heat, the spice did not overtake the flavours of the broth, merely they enhanced it, exactly what you want from the addition of spice to your ramen.
- NOODLES: Fresh and bountiful, they soak up the broth well and the spice coats the noodles nicely.
- EGG: A huge disappointment, overcooked and cold inside. I think egg in ramen is best when its herbed and soft boiled, the yolk adds a richness to the broth that enhances the Chasu. Here the egg was way too cooked and obviously in a fridge so that it was cold and crumbly, it was a large fail for me.
- BROTH: Wow, what an amazing base! Miso is a standard for Ramen but surprisingly it is easy to screw up, sometimes coming out too watery or lacking flavor. Not here, the Classic Miso broth was rich, velvety with that slight nutty hint that you expect and crave from a good Miso base and it was here in spades. Well done!
If it wasn’t for that cold, crumbly egg, this would have been a 5/5 Ramen, the broth alone is worthy of a repeat visit! I will be back to try the Pork Cheek and a different broth combination as well as Santa Ramen has definitely made the list as one of my favorites but next time I wont order the egg.
- Dish: Classic Miso Ramen
- Price: $8.50
- Extras: Sweet Corn $1.00, Egg $1.00, Extra Spicy $1.00