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.
Dish: Katana-Ya Ramen (Miso, Regular, Extra Spicy)
Address: 430 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102
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 Sushi, Coco’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.
Dish: Curry Ramen w. additional Egg & black garlic
Location: Coco’s Ramen
Address: 3319 Mission St., San Francisco, CA, 415-648-7722
Both Matt and I have eaten at RAMEN YAMADAYA and both had excellent meals there, this time however was a huge disappointment.
I came in an hour before closing and ordered a Chicken Karrage, which was absolutely fantastic. I also went with my standby, Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen but here’s where it all fell apart.
The Ramen was warm but not hot, the spice was non-existent, the noodles were overcooked and the egg was horrible. While the broth itself was tasty, it started to get that congealed texture pretty quickly as it wasn’t hot enough at point of serving. While the corn was great and the onions top notch, the spice powder lacked the punch I was expecting for a “spicy ramen” and the noodles were so overdone I thought they were going to fall apart on my chopsticks. The pork was good but the egg, the egg, oh, the egg… the egg quite honestly was old. Felt like it was prepped the day before, left to sit out and deposited it in my late night bowl the next evening. I was really disappointed.
Every shop has an off night and maybe I shouldn’t go for Ramen so close to closing time but as a business, you should be expected to deliver top quality product during your business hours, anything less in unacceptable. I’m still a fan of YAMADAYA but it may be a while before I return.
Dish: Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen w. Corn
Location: Ramen Yamadaya
Address: 1728 Buchanan St. San Francisco, CA 94115