ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ramen Shop in Oakland, Redux

Today it was back to the Ramen Shop in Oakland for another visit.  For those visiting, it has a very nondescript exterior, so may be a bit hard to find if it is your first time.  The ambience inside is friendly, a bit on the darker side giving it a more lounge/bar feel, and the Saturday night crowd definitely made it feel like it was a bit of a “scene”.  There is a bar in the front, which serves some great cocktails, and has an interesting beer and sake list.  I didn’t get any drinks this time, but some people in my group got some interesting concoctions which they enjoyed tremendously.

Ramen Shop, 5812 College Ave, Oakland, CA

Ramen Shop, 5812 College Ave, Oakland, CA

The pickle plate was again spot on, with five different things to sample.  The black, Spanish radish was delicious.  I also really liked the cabbage, which was a bit spicy.

Ramen Shop, Pickle Plate

Ramen Shop, Pickle Plate

Ramen Shop Menu

Ramen Shop Menu

Shio Ramen

Shio Ramen

I got the shio ramen.  One of my complaints last time was that the broth tasted artificially thickened, perhaps with carrageenan.  I didn’t taste that way to me this time round.  The broth was quite good, nice flavor and consistency.  I liked the mizuna; I don’t remember having that as a green last time.   The noodles were good, I was probably being a bit too picky last time around.   This time there was a chicken meatball in the ramen.  I’m not sure I’m really into it.  I haven’t been able to get into meatballs in my pho either.  The only meatball soup I like is Italian wedding style.  I also like a good matzo ball soup, which is  almost vegetarian meatball.  Anyway, maybe I just need to get used to ramen with meatballs.  Although, they were tasty.  Again, the egg was fantastic, although you only get 1/2 of an egg.

I didn’t try the vegetarian ramen this time, but it looked quite good.  Overall, a tasty place, and I like their constantly evolving menu and interesting use of ingredients.  i had absurdly high expectations the first time I went, so it is nice to go this time and just be able to enjoy myself and have some good ramen.  It’s quite good.  Unfortunately, it’s quite far from where I live.

Ramen Shop, Noodle Machine

Ramen Shop, Noodle Machine

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Kansui Ramen, San Jose

Kansui Ramen is a pop-up lunchtime ramen shop which is embedded in the restaurant Hay Market in the Willow Glen part of San Jose.   Tuesday through Saturday, you can get lunchtime ramen there.  They seem to have a stable list of a few common types of ramen (shio, shoyu, tonkotsu, and spicy red miso), and then a rotating selection of specialty ramens.  From what I can tell by looking at previous iterations of the menu, one of these is always fully vegetarian ramen, and then often a tsukemen and then something unique for ramen.   They also make use of the regular bar at Hay Market, which being a hipster-esque American/Californian foodie place, has a good beer selection and looks to have a good wine list.

Kansui Menu

Kansui Menu

 

The ambiance is nice.  It has Chinese restaurant, shared table seating – sit where you want aspect, so you may end up shoulder to shoulder with a stranger.  There are lots of neat antiques around, and the standard beer in a faux mason jar sort of thing that you might expect.    There are some TV’s as well, which made it a nice play to watch some afternoon world cup.  The staff was very friendly and accommodating.

We got the shio ramen and the black boar ramen (with extra chashu in the latter).

Kansui Black Shoyu Boar Ramen

Kansui Black Shoyu Boar Ramen

Kansui Shio Ramen

Kansui Shio Ramen

The black shoyu boar ramen broth was inky black.  I assume its color comes from roasted garlic, like most black ramen, however, the color and consistency was quite good.  The broth was thick and rich, but it didn’t taste like it had been additionally thickened.   Overall, quite good.  The add ins were really exceptional.  The thin sliced mushrooms (more prominently visible in the shio ramen) were marinated in something, like yuzu based, and had a really exceptional flavor and texture.  The egg was soft-boiled to perfection and marinated in something (likely tea).    The toasted seaweed (nori) was good.  The ground boar meat was wonderfully savory and rich.  I asked for extra chashu, and was expecting the thin sliced semi-circles I had seen in the pictures on yelp, but instead got large rich chunks which were at the bottom of the noodle dish.  The chashu was decent.   The chashu cubes were big enough that it made for inelegant eating, and it was a bit like being at a Southern style BBQ restaurant.   The thinner cuts which are then browned a little bit tend to have a little bit better, firmer mouthfeel, while retaining their slow cooked tenderness, and that is what I was expecting.

The noodles were a little bit on the thicker size, and very wheaty in flavor and texture.   Everyone has noodle preferences, and these had so little kansui (potassium carbonate stuff that makes ramen noodles yellow and chewy), that they were basically like slightly thinner than usual udon.   As noted in many previous posts, I am very much a fan of thinner, yellower noodles with lots of kansui.   It was particularly strange to me, given the name of the restaurant, that the noodles didn’t seem to have much kansui actually in them.   Note, that this is very much a subjective thing, and other people have very different noodle preferences than I do.

The noodles in the shio ramen seemed to be the same.  The broth had a strong chicken flavor, with also a strong sesame taste.  It was good, if a bit richer than many shio broths I have had, bordering on what would be considered almost like a tonkotsu somewhere else.   Again, the marinated mushrooms were really top notch, and the egg was excellent.

Overall, Kansui is a recommend.  It may be hard for some people to get there for lunch during the week.  It’s nice that they seem to consistently have a fully vegetarian option on the menu.  I definitely hope to return at some point to see what new special ramens they have.  Looking at older menus, there are some really interesting and tasty looking combinations, including some with duck.

Faux Mason Jar and Okonomiyaki

Faux Mason Jar and Okonomiyaki 

 

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Ramen Taka Redux

There have been some changes at Taka Ramen since I visited before.  It’s now open for dinner, which is a huge advantage to those of us who live remotely.  The service is still excellent, and the ramen is still great, but even better some of the food offerings have expanded.

In addition to the good hakata style ramen on the menu (their Taka ramen, house speciality, with skinnier, paler, softer noodles), they also have a miso ramen and a shio ramen.  The shio ramen (didn’t get the miso) uses the more traditional, yellower and chewier ramen noodles.  The broth flavors are wonderful.  The house (Taka) ramen broth is very rich and deliciously pork flavored.  The shio broth was light and chicken flavored.  They each included two half eggs, and the eggs were perfectly soft boiled, and I love a perfectly cooked egg in my ramen.   The pork and veggies was very good.

The menu has expanded a bit, it includes a bunch of new things, including a ramen burger, onigiri, spam musubi, and a bunch of other things which I can’t remember.   The absolutely delicious fried rice that they have is still on the menu.  This time, we got two orders of full fried rice serving, because it is so good, and the waiter cooked in an egg at the table on the hot iron plate, a little teppanyaki style.  The fried rice is so good.  It has little bits of pork, green onion, and fish cake in it, and is just absolutely delicious.

The yuzu soda is still on the menu, which is fun and different.

Because I think dinner service is relatively new, it wasn’t crowded at all on a Friday night, unlike many ramen shops of this caliber in the area, which is a great thing.  The staff continue to be exceptionally friendly.  The atmosphere is great; they were showing Spirited Away.    I very much recommend this place.

 

Taka ramen

Taka ramen

Taka's shio ramen

Taka’s shio ramen

Delicious fried rice

Delicious fried rice