Ramen Seas, Sunnyvale, CA
Ichiza, Las Vegas, NV
It seems like there are really no shortage of Japanese good eats in Vegas area. Newly added to my favorite off the strip dining list is this lovely Izakaya restaurant Ichiza.
The menu is fairly standard and not overwhelming. On top of the transitional izakaya small plates and yakitori skewers, you can also find some kitchen entree, ramen and sushi rolls. Bento style meals are offered during happy hour.
Price is very reasonable and the quality of the food is good. Honey toast is a must try if you never had it elsewhere. Imagine a loaf of soft bread, toasted, drenched in butter, honey and topped with two scoops of ice cream… THAT was sinfully gratifying.
Kotetsu, Santa Clara, CA
Kotetsu is a new Japanese ramen shop that took over the location used to be Menta Ramen.
I didn’t find Menta too exciting back then and Kotetsu is sadly just as average. Both Shiro and Kuro broth were carried by a generous amount of fat but lacked complex flavors. It might be good if you want to acquire some extra insulation for the cold winter. The toppings were alright. Soft boiled egg was nice and runny in the center but was already cold when served. Chashu was fat and tender. Noodles were on the thick side. A bit chewy but still good.
Their ramen weren’t too bad. Perhaps just a little forgettable.
Menta Ramen, Santa Clara, CA
Another new comer to the fierce silicon valley ramen scene. Menta Ramen, sadly, did not bring too much excitement. Just another bowl of tonkotsu ramen, with mediocre toppings in a fatty but mellow broth. I did not find it particularly memorable. The spicy seafood ramen was perhaps slightly more interesting. Was it crab meat that I tasted in the spicy broth? There were plenty of clams, shrimps, squids, mussels floating around to make seafood lover happy. Both bowls tasted little better after adding a generous amount of roasted garlic they provided you on the side.
Service was quick and friendly. It is an alright place to get a bowl of ramen if you are in a hurry but it is really no competition to Orenchi or Santouka nearby. Even Maru Ichi and Ryowa in MV have slight edge over Menta in terms of quality and menu options.
Ringer Hut, San Jose, CA
Champon, a neglected cousin of Ramen, is the specialty here at Ringer Hut. It is not surprising this Nagasaki noodle dish attracts far less attention. It is a simpler construct often prepared with highly modest ingredients. You won’t find any enticingly marbled pieces of chashu swimming in a milky pork bone broth that had been cooked for ages. Toppings are usually just simple shredded pork and vegetables with some seafood. As you can see, it is really unfair to compare Champon with Ramen as they are in completely different leagues.
Nagasaki Champon at Ringer Hut is a very modest bowl. The broth has flavors but lacking some complexity and richness. I like the chewy noodle but found them not thick enough. The cooked shrimps and fish cake toppings were uninteresting. Earlier reviews mentioned the portion being huge but I had no trouble finishing a regular bowl for lunch. Had I ordered the small one, I would probably be hungry. Something must have changed.
The limited order tsukemen is something to try if you don’t feel like sipping down hot soup. It essentially the same noodle served with a spicy miso dipping sauce on side and topped with minced pork, seaweed, green onions and soft boiled egg.
Mitsuwa Marketplace, San Jose, CA
Goodies from their special Kyushu & Okinawa Fair. All directly from Japan.
- Hakata Nagahama Ramen from “Tanaka Shoten” in Japan
- Sea Eel and Mackerel Sushi from “Hiranoya” in Nagasaki Pref
- Ikinari Dango from “Kumajun” in Kumamoto Pref
- Custard Pudding in a Fresh Cream Puff from “Kikuya” in Oita Pref
Daikukuya Ramen, Los Angeles, CA
Best ramen in LA? Better than anything NorCal has to offer? Many years ago perhaps. With all the new ramen houses sprouting over California, I don’t think Daikokuya holds the top spot anymore.
If anything, this place is busier than ever. There is always a line out the door and a wait over 45 minutes is nothing unusual.
There is really only one thing to order - their Daikoku ramen. Have it kotteri style unless you are on a crazy diet (in that case you really shouldn’t be eating ramen). They have tsukeman and yakisoba but I can’t imagine getting those over a staple bowl of tonkotso ramen.
The broth was nicely done but didn’t impress me like Ippudo in NYC. It was milky, rich and complex. Everything you would expect from a reputable top tier ramen joint (in US).
The noodles did not stand out. The chewiness is lacking. Shin-Sen-Gumi’s has much better texture even though they were thinner hakata style.
The Toppings was average. Chashu was fat enough but no where compares to the buttery ones from Santouka’s. The soft boiled egg was good though.
Their house made goyza is a must try side dish. I like crisped skin and juicy fillings.
Sad to say but I really don’t think Daikokuya was worth the long wait. Santouka serves up an overall better bowl and you could save yourself a lot of time.
Dan Izakaya Restaurant, San Jose, CA
Note to self : Must return to try more of their izakaya dishes for dinner.
I have been asked numerous times whether I have tried the food at Dan. Finally I can answer yes to that question.
It is not hard to understand why Dan has a solid base of loyal customers. The food is good and affordable. Lunch menu features a wild selection of rice and noodle combination sets and a smaller selection of sushi, rolls and shioyaki.
They make good rice. Both the cooked rice in the buta kakuni don and the sushi rice from chirashi were wonderful. Rice was well seasoned with the right texture. Their sashimi is fresh but the quality was very average. The fish is no better than the ones you can easily acquire from grocery stores. It will suffice if you just want some raw fish with your meal but stay away if you want better. The Asari (clam) ramen that I heard from a lot of people was indeed quite tasty. It was also a nice change from the usual tonkotsu ramen with chushu. Although I still think their udon should receive most recognition.
My favorite izakaya place in the bay area is Gochi for creative fusion style and Hoshi for traditional style (a rather controversial pick but I stand by it). I wonder how Dan compares.
Ramen Halu, San Jose, CA
Ramen Halu is in the league of Santouka and Orenchi. In my opinion, their best bowl is the simple Shio Ramen rather than more popular HALU ramen with Tonkotsu broth.
Halu does Shio broth unlike any of the competing ramen shops in the area that I have tried. It is clear yet flavorful, fulling capturing a soothing sea salt flavor. Not too thick, not too oily. It is the complex gentleness that captivated me. The thin noodle has good chewiness.
I did not think too much of the tonkotsu broth. It was good but I did find any surprises beyond the typical bold milky richness.
The toppings were average and definitely did not set them apart. Standard fare thin slices of chashu with some fresh greens and mushrooms. Nothing too special. I could easily forgive that since they have good broth and decent noodle.
My ranked list for ramen in San Francisco bay area. With famous places from other cities thrown in as point of reference.
Legendary (Must eat before you die)
- Akamaru Modern - Ippudo NY, New York, NY
Top Tier (Memorable in many aspects)
- #1 Orenchi Ramen - Orenchi Ramen, Santa Clara, CA
- Tonkutsu Ramen - Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi, Gardena, CA
- #2 Spicy Garlic Pork Broth Ramen - Ramen Dojo, San Mateo, CA
- #3 Shoyu Toroniku Ramen - Santouka, San Jose, CA
- Daikoku Ramen - Daikokuya, Los Angeles, CA
- #4 Shio Ramen - Ramen Halu, San Jose, CA
Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi, Gardena, CA
I have to admit. Shinesengumi is overall better than any of the ramen restaurants I have tried in North Cal. Those amazing texture of their noodle just couldn’t be found anywhere else. Nothing even came close. They used these thin noodles that were chewy yet soft and elastic. Not to mention you get to choose from 3 different thickness to suit your taste. I opted for the medium and they were great. The tonkotsu broth was good but not the best I have had. I found it to be quite flavorful yet light. Very drinkable since it is not too thick or salty. I asked for the normal broth with medium amount of oil. Those who are used to the typical heartier ramen broth might want to try the strong broth with a bit more oil. The basic bowl came with only green onions and two pieces of chashu. You certainly want more toppings in there. I found the chashu to be quite mediocre. Adding some flavorful egg and shredded seaweed but they were nothing spectacular either. The extra noodle ($0.95) is a great deal if you have a healthy appetite. The restaurant seems fairly busy so expect a bit of a wait. Tables weren’t the cleanest and sometimes it was difficult to get the waitstaff’s attention. Ramen was made to order so it was served rather slow. A little price to pay for good noodle I suppose. I enjoyed sitting at the bar where you can just watch how they make your ramen. Pretty neat place I must say. Wish they would open a branch in North Cal.
Yu-Raku, San Mateo, CA
Don’t shoot me for being a traitor but I actually prefer this Japanese style Chinese food to many of the more authentic Chinese eateries in the area. The Japanese have their own very interesting interpretation of the Chinese cuisine. I like the mellow and dedicate flavors.
The location of Yu-Raku is a bit awkward. It is fairly close to downtown San Mateo but across the street on the other side of El Camino. That might explains why the restaurant was still rather quiet on a Friday night.
Worry not, the food here is excellent. I am quite glad this little gem wasn’t as packed. No hour long wait. No need to fight for parking.
I enjoyed the Yu-Raku Cha-Kan (Egg fried rice w/snow crab ankake sauce) and Nira Reba Itame (sauteed liver with onion & chives). The ramen was alright but nothing like Ramen Dojo’s. They do have some interesting Chuka Soba not found in typical Japanese Ramen joints. I would love to come back here and try more of their other dishes.