Katana-Ya: KATANA-YA RAMEN

Its been years since I’ve been to the classic Katana-Ya Ramen shop near Union Square in San Francisco. When I first arrived in SF, it was considered one of the best in the city by loads of folks and always sported a line up (must be that killer location). These days, there are a lot more ramen options around the Bay Area so with a return visit, does this “original gangster” hold up? Let’s see.

I arrived after 1pm on a workday thus missing the lunch rush so my co-worker and I were immediately seated in this small shop with about 20 seats total (usually at peak times there is a 15-30 minute wait). As it has been a few years and I usually ordered the Spicy Miso, I opted to try something different and go for the House Special Katana-Ya Ramen. This is  the “kitchen sink” of ramen which includes Chicken Karrage, Potstickers, BBQ Pork, Corn, Scallions, Seaweed and an egg. Now at Katana-Ya you can choose your both base of Salt, Miso or Soy (I opted for Miso), the Density of light, regular or rich (I chose regular) and of course the spice level of  little, medium or extra (extra was the way).

The bowl that arrived was somewhat comically large and filled with bits of meat, veggies and gyoza as well as noodles and broth, it was large and honestly looked like a treasure trove of flavors! I enjoyed the gyoza and chicken that were included but found that the Karrage coating got soggy and there were so many competing flavors, the overall bowl lost its way. I would go back and order another ramen at Katana-Ya for sure as their broth is delicious, the veggies fresh, the chashu solid and the noodles tasty but add all those other goodies included in the Katana-Ya Ramen and too much can honestly be a bad thing.

I didn’t hate it but I thought that all those flavors started canceling each other out and the specialness of the Katana-Ya Ramen was diminished. That said, Katana-Ya still delivers a decent bowl of ramen but to me, its got a lot of competition out there that are doing things better.

Spicy Miso Ramen

Dish: Katana-Ya Ramen (Miso, Regular, Extra Spicy)
Location: Katana-Ya
Address: 430 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102
Price $14.30
Rating: rating_3

Website: http://www.katanayausa.com/

Jinya Ramen Bar: TONKOTSU BLACK RAMEN

My first ramen experience in Las Vegas was great, the always tasty, the always busy Monta Japanese Noodle House, is a surefire winner! Well, I was back in Vegas and with my one free night I decided to try the newest ramen joint in the city of Sin, Jinya Ramen Bar and I’m glad I did, it was delicious!

Located on Flamingo Road, a few minutes off the fabled Las Vegas strip, Jinya is a standalone building that most likely has a formidable line-up outside of it. Luckily, my buddy Tom and I waited for 25 minutes before we were seated as it was the two of us opposed to the other groups of 4-6 people. The place itself is loud, dark, decorated with a lot of wood, filled with ample seating and sporting a fun, energetic vibe. The menu is robust but Ramen is definitely front and center! I went with the Tonkotsu Black Ramen which comes with “Pork Broth, Pork Chashu, Kikurage, Green Onion, Nori, Garlic Chips, Garlic Oil, Fried Onions and a seasoned Egg”. What separates this place from most, is they serve their ramen with “thin” noodles as opposed to the thicker, more traditional ramen noodle – okay, let’s see what they got!

Visually appealing, smelled like a winner and for me, the thin noodles were an extremely welcome & tasty change. The broth was flavorful and complex with the added richness of that lovely black garlic oil, it really tied the flavors together! On the plus side, the unique addition of the fried onions and garlic chips gave the overall spoonful a nice crunch and hint of heat that was extremely welcome with the creamy, rich broth. All in all, an extremely enjoyable bowl of ramen!

I will definitely go back to Jinya next time I am in Las Vegas, between this place and Monta, there are two great ramen joints in the city and this one is definitely a welcome addition! I would love to indulge in the Tonkotsu Black Ramen again but with such a great menu, there are definitely other bowls to try!

Tokotsu Black Ramen Jinya

Dish: Tokotsu Black Ramen
Location: Jinya Ramen Bar
Address: 4860 W. Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada
Price $10.80
Rating: rating_4

Website: http://www.jinya-ramenbar.com

Coco’s Ramen: CURRY RAMEN

I love it when a new ramen joint opens up in town and I love it even more when that new ramen joint is walking distance from home…. my belly or cholesterol level may not be happy but I am! So it was with unbridled enthusiasm on a sunny Saturday afternoon that the wife and I decided to give the new noodle-slurping shop a try and Im glad we did, Coco’s Ramen is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Connected to Crazy SushiCoco’s boasts a simple menu but with six different ramen broths to choose from, there are a few options. I decided to against the norm and order the Curry Ramen, which calls itself “flavorful – a curry base with pork and chicken stock”. All ramens come with nori, assorted veggies and of course an egg. I asked for it spicy with some black garlic and I of course ordered a second egg. When my bowl arrived, I was greeted with a deep mustard colored visual and a smell of light japanese curry! The broth was thick, the flavor was excellent and not-overpowering which is exactly what I was hoping for. The pork/chicken broth shone through and the curry was a delicious accent instead of a majority stakeholder. The veggies were fresh (big hunks of potato and carrot throughout), the pork was delicate and the two eggs were wonderful companions to the as-advertised “flavorful” broth. If there was one downside, I would say it was the noodles, as to me, they didn’t taste fresh.

While I enjoyed the Curry Ramen, I haven’t been back (mainly due to work travel) but I am excited to try another dish (my wife loved her Tonkotsu Ramen) especially since its in the ‘hood. Coco’s Ramen is a welcome addition to my personal lazy-susan of Ramen shops and with a close location and multiple choices I see many repeat visits in my future.

Spicy Curry Ramen Cocos

Dish: Curry Ramen w. additional Egg & black garlic
Location: Coco’s Ramen
Address: 3319 Mission St., San Francisco, CA, 415-648-7722
Price $13.50
Rating: rating_3
Website: http://www.cocoramen.com/