Santa Ramen: Classic Miso Ramen, extra Spicy w. Egg & Corn

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.

– Gio

  • Dish: Classic Miso Ramen
  • Price: $8.50
  • Extras: Sweet Corn $1.00, Egg $1.00, Extra Spicy $1.00
  • Rating: rating_4

Santa

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Takara Ramen Bar: Spicy Miso Ramen

L.A. is known for it’s good street food, the food trucks are legendary, as is the Mexican Food but low and behold, so is the Asian food. Knowing that we were going to be in LA for the Weekend, Matt and I researched some Ramen joints located near our hotel and settled on a newer establishment close by rather than cabbing it to Koreatown where better rated joints are found. We visited TAKARA RAMEN just off of Sunset with a couple buddies to see what the City of Angels had to offer.

TAKARA looks to be an old diner, re-modeled into a Ramen Joint, it’s all black and white with an open kitchen on one side and booths lining the other, a large window looks out into the hustle and bustle of Hollywood as you eat. I went for the Spicy Miso which comes with Chasu Pork, Egg, Bamboo, Sesame Seeds, Onion, Bok Choi, Bean Sprouts and Ground Pork. Within 10 minutes of ordering, the Ramen was at the table.

While the presentation wasn’t the best (everything was under the broth except for the Pork and the Bok Choi), the broth itself was a winner. A nice level of spice on top of a rich and flavorful Miso-based broth. The pork itself was delicate, the egg was decent and the noodles were solid, not amazing but not bad either. I really enjoyed the addition of the Bok Choi in the Ramen as a little green always helps cut through the richness of Ramen but the ground pork was completely lost amid the other flavors and textures.

Overall I was pleased with my meal as it was a mix of good flavors and it left my belly full. I would try another Ramen House next time I was in LA but if I was in the area, I would give TAKARA another go.

-Gio

  • Dish: Spicy Miso Ramen
  • Price: $10.95
  • Extras: None
  • Rating: rating_3

Takara

Men-Oh: Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen

Our long standing favorite place in the Bay Area, Men Oh, needed a follow up test after visiting so many other venues in the area. So I packed up the munchkin on a Saturday afternoon, picked up a good friend of ours, and headed into San Francisco for lunch. The only place in the area that is actually from Japan, Men Oh originates from Tokushima on the island of Shikoku. Operating 12 restaurants all over Japan, Men Oh opened up two venues in the Bay Area. One in San Francisco on Geary Blvd. and 15th Ave. and another in Union City. (They recently opened a new store in L.A. I am told)

Men Oh’s specialty is Tonkotsu ramen, which if you can’t tell yet, is easily my favorite type. My dish of choice is the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen, extra spicy of course. Men Ohs version of the dish comes with chashu, a seasoned boiled egg, menma (bamboo shoots), chives, karamoyashi (spicy bean sprout), nikumiso, and cayenne pepper strings.

My concern was that, with all the ramen we have been eating since starting up the blog, our favorite wasn’t going to hold up anymore. The bowl arrived at the table and I was instantly reminded why I love Men Oh. The dish was colorful, neatly arranged, and came in a very nicely designed white porcelain bowl. The toppings were all fresh and very orderly placed so that each little bit could be seen. I had added corn and extra nikumiso to my order and they made sure that you could tell they were present.

First taste of the broth was fantastic, just as I had remembered. Thick, heavy, and rich with pork fat, the broth carries all of the flavors and notes of a great tonkotsu broth. The noodles perfectly cooked complemented the broth exactly as they should, carrying the sticky fatty parts that dotted the surface of the broth.

Toppings were spot on and tasted fantastic. The stand out from Men Oh in my opinion is the seasoned boiled egg and the nikumiso. The egg is perfectly cooked and seasoned with a golden custardy center. The nikumiso is somewhat unique to Men Oh (I haven’t seen it very often at other places) and is a ground pork marinated in a delicious miso sauce. The result is a salty and very robust flavor that adds wonderful notes to the broth and other toppings. I can’t get enough which is why I always order extra.

After finishing my lunch, I mentioned to my friend who had joined me that I was worried it wouldn’t hold up. I have been eating some fantastic ramen lately and I had my doubts. My doubts and fears had vanished and I was extremely pleased with my lunch. Still #1 in my book, and my favorite ramen yet. It will be hard to dethrone this one honestly. (Side note, I have eaten at both the SF and Union City locations and there is little to no difference between the quality. So feel free to visit either.)

Also, beyond the ramen, Men Oh offers a fantastic Takoyaki appetizer that is on par with what I have had in Osaka.

– Matt

  • Dish: Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen (Extra Spicy)
  • Price: $9.50
  • Extras: Sweet Corn $.75, extra Nikumiso $1.00
  • Rating: rating_5

men_oh_tonkotsu