Restaurant Review: Ramen Shop (Oakland, CA)

Baby spot prawn miso ramen with ground pork belly, soy marinated egg, corn, torpedo onions, wood ear mushrooms, and shungiku

Baby spot prawn miso ramen with ground pork belly, soy marinated egg, corn, torpedo onions, wood ear mushrooms, and shungiku

Ramen Shop in Oakland just might be serving the best ramen in the Bay Area right now.  This restaurant opened with a lot of hype due to the pedigree of its chefs, alumni from Chez Panisse in Berkeley who had gone to Japan to train in ramen.  Write-ups appeared in Bay Area publications and even the New York Times, and crowds quickly followed.  Ramen Shop is known for taking a Northern California approach to ramen, sourcing their ingredients locally from NorCal and making everything from scratch, including their noodles, which is something not many local ramen places do.

They typically serve three different bowls of ramen, a vegetarian broth with Meyer lemon, and miso, shoyu (soy), or shio (salt) broths.  The toppings also rotate but typically include chasu (pork) and seafood.  I had the miso ramen  with baby prawns, corn, and a soft cooked egg.  I added chasu for an additional $3, and I am glad I did, because it was smoky, rich, tender, and delicious.  The broth was excellent, complex and flavorful without being overly fatty like some ramen places.  The homemade noodles were toothsome and perfectly cooked and definitely make Ramen Shop unique.  Really great.

I have tried Santouka and Kahoo in San Jose, Orenchi in Santa Clara, Santa and Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, Namu Gaji in San Francisco, and a few more that were unmemorable.  I think that Ramen Shop ranks right up there with Ramen Dojo as my favorite.

The restaurant is located in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, right across the street from the famous Zachary’s Pizza.  There is an open kitchen with counter seating as well as lots of tables.  Ramen Shop opens for dinner at 4pm, and it’s a good idea to go early, because they do not take reservations and the restaurant is very popular.

Link to Ramen Shop here.

Restaurant Review: Ramen Dojo

Ramen Dojo is a popular ramen shop in San Mateo, CA that serves “sutamina” style spicy ramen.  There is a ton of flavor in the slick, rich broth from pork, garlic, chili oil, and many other ingredients.  The noodles were perfectly chewy and the roast pork was tender.  It is served with a quail egg, roast garlic, chives, and pepper threads.  There are many extra toppings one can add on as well.  There are also some great appetizers as well, including specials such as a tofu and shrimp roll.  The tiny shop seats 24, so there is often a line to be seated even before the restaurant opens at 530.  One of my favorites places in the Bay Area.

Lucky Peach: Issue 1 review

David Chang makes delicious food.  That much I know having made a pilgrimage to NYC to eat at Momofuku Noodle Bar (twice), Momofuku Milk Bar, and Momofuku Ssam Bar.  He has given us many recipes in his Momofuku cookbook, so I was curious to see what he would bring to his new food quarterly, Lucky Peach.

The first issue of Lucky Peach is devoted to the topic of ramen and is a fascinating read with bonuses of new versions of recipes of the Momofuku ramen broth.  I made the original version published in the Momofuku cookbook, which took about ten hours and produced a rich and flavorful broth.  When I made the original version, I went to the Asian supermarket and was in the checkout line with the ingredients, including one pound of bacon, five pounds of pork bones, and three pounds of chicken.  My Spanish is not very good, but I heard the guys at the check-out line say “loco…”

Version 2.0 ramen recipe seems more streamlined.  Instead of steeping the shiitake mushrooms in the broth and then discarding them, he recommends pulverizing them into a powder and adding them to the broth.  Downside is no spent shiitake mushrooms to pickle, but the upside is a more intense mushroom flavor. Roasted pork bones have been eliminated from the recipe.  It still takes a long time, but makes over a gallon of good broth that can be frozen.

Some recipes are recycled from Momofuku cookbook, like Bacon Dashi, Alkaline Noodles, Pork Belly, and Pork Shoulder, but I guess they are there so that one can make a complete bowl of ramen from Lucky Peach rather than buy the cookbook.  New recipes that look interesting include Carrot Dashi, Tonkotsu-style Broth, and Arpege Egg.  There are other recipes that seem gimmicky like different ways to use instant ramen – ramen-crusted skate, oriental chip dip (mix the seasoning packet from a package of instant ramen into some sour cream and voila!).

The writing is quite good.  There is a nice travelogue piece by Peter Meehan that describes Peter and David’s visits to various ramen shops and the distinctive differences between them.  Harold McGee, scientist/author of On Food and Cooking, describes the alkaline part of alkaline noodles.  It is quite an education in the world of ramen.

Overall there is a nice mix of writing, food education, and recipes that is quite unique.  I am hoping for some more original Momofuku recipes and am looking forward to upcoming issues!

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