Ramen Taka is in Santa Clara, basically across the street from Santa Clara University, the oldest college/university in California. From what I can tell, it is a pretty new establishment in the area. The space is a nice one, larger than I expected, with some bare brick walls decorated with wanted posters from One Piece. There was a lot of black and it felt a bit like there should be a DJ there or that they should have live music in the evenings. However, we were there on a Monday afternoon for lunch. Apparently it is only open for lunch, and only takes cash. This is a little bit more in line with a Japanese ramen place serving daytime workers.
The staff was incredibly friendly, and super quick. It might have helped that there were only a few other people in the restaurant, but I found it very nice to have such attentive service. The establishment was very clean and organized.
They serve hakata style ramen, the style closely associated with Kyushu.
Hakata style ramen from Taka Ramen
The offer some different lunch options, pairing the ramen with things like fried rice or gyoza. I got the fried rice pairing, a 3 piece of fried chicken, and some spicy takana (mustard green) pickles on the side.
The ramen broth was good, a nice creamy tonkotsu. Nothing particularly standout or unusual, but good. The egg was nicely softboiled, and have a very good mouthfeel consistency. The kikurage had a nice chewiness and flavor. There was red pickled ginger on the table (which goes with the hakata style ramen), and a little dispenser for freshly ground sesame seeds (like a pepper grinder). The chashu (grilled pork slice) had a decent flavor. Not too strong or unusual. Fairly standard, but well done. The noodles are one of the things which characterize the differences in hakata ramen. These are very thin, smooth, whitish and wheaty in taste. They lack the yellowish alkaline chewiness of more standard ramen noodles. They are more like angel hair spaghetti than most ramen noodles. I am really a fan of that yellow chewiness of more standard ramen noodles, but it is an interesting and different change of pace.
The fried chicken was good. I really liked the fried rice though. It was only lightly fried, and the mixed in toppings were very finely minced and included kamaboko. Kamaboko is the Japanese fish cake/paste, typically in pink decorated cylinders which often ends up in circular slices in more traditional ramen or saimin. I’m not a huge fan of kamaboko, but this was a great use of it. I could happily eat a lot of this savory rice.
Fried rice at Taka Ramen
The takana (pickled mustard greens) was decent. I asked for it on the side instead of on the ramen, and it came in a beautiful little box. It was spicy and had some of the roasted sesame oil taste which I don’t love. It was tasty though, and I like mixing a little takan with ramen.
One of the beverage options was a yuzu Italian soda, which I found quite tasty. This is some candied yuzu, ice and soda water. I really like this kind of soda in general, especially the Vietnames salty plum or lemon sodas, and I loved the flavor that the yuzu gave to it. It also had that wonderful yuzu smell. It got me thinking I should try to make my own candied yuzu or candied yuzu peal to put in things. My only complaint is that it came with the sort of straw that has a short of shovel/spoon thing on one end. This was not necessary, because they also gave me a long thin metal soda spoon. A straw which opens up at the end doesn’t let you draw up the last cm or so of liquid. Anyway, this is such a minor thing, but it did annoy me a little.
Candied yuzu in soda
Overall a very good place, and I would heartily recommend it. If I were a student at Santa Clara, I would probably go there all the time. The service was great, and I enjoyed having lunch there.