I will admit, I am not a trendy person. I don’t usually go out to do the latest trendy thing. It takes a lot of effort on my part and requires queuing, which I suck at. If anything, I wind up being ahead of the trend (such as blogging about ramen back in 2002, flashpacking before the term was invented, etc) or trying to desperately ignore it. Pumpkin spice anyone? IGNORE
So Chef Morimoto (of Iron Chef fame) opened up a branch of his ramen/casual dining restaurant Momosan in San Jose a couple of weeks back. Momosan also has locations in NYC and Waikiki. The other night, I decided to drive down to try the place out with a friend who lives down there.
The rule about new trendy spots that open is to try the place on a weeknight. Actually, the rule is to go to any place that’s popular on a weeknight. The queues shouldn’t be as bad as the weekends. This is true according to the manager there. He also told me that the queue for the night I was there began at 16:00, an hour before they opened and was 40+ by opening time.
When you enter, the staff greets you with a hearty ”irasshaimase!!” as you’re seated. Even though the servers are new at the ramen game, service was friendly, fun and prompt.
Look at the menu here. The going price of a bowl was US$19.00, a little higher than the norm over here of US$14-15 for a bowl. The jaw dropping bowls were US$29.00, one called the All-Star which was basically meat with some noodles and broth tossed in and the other one, the Gyukotsu which reads like short rib ramen. The latter is limited to 30 bowls a night and the manager told me that it sells out within the first hour. My friend got the All-Star and I got the traditional Tonkotsu.
But first, appetizers! Two easy ones, the duck fat fries with truffle ketchup and the popcorn shrimp (tempura battered with kojuchang aioli). Both hot and fresh and delish!
Now the main course. Right off the bat, I love the presentation. And you’ll notice the bowls here fall under the ”least amount of toppings” category so there’s something really good here.
The noodles were thicker than my preferred Hakata style but not as thick as Hokkaido ramen noodles. A nice middle of the road Tokyo noodle I’d call it. The noodles were fine. The broth had the tonkotsu umami and savoryness but not as heavy or as fatty as traditional tonkotsu. That means that you can indulge and you don’t feel like you have to be rolled out of the restaurant. I liked the broth a lot. I finished it.
The chasiu was different. Instead of the typical slices of chasiu, this looks like they put it in a slicer. They were thin cuts of chasiu, rolled up. When you picked it up with hashi, it looked like slices of bacon. It was good! And also wasn’t too heavy. Was this a diet bowl of ramen I had? Perhaps.
My friend devoured the All-Star before I could get better pix of that. He did let me steal a piece of the pork belly that came with his bowl. The fat was melt in your mouth delish and the meat was almost melt in your mouth too. Yum. Next visit may try that if the gyukotsu is sold out again.
I’ve passed Proposition Chicken many times going to and from Downtown. I never thought much about the place, thinking it was just another overpriced meh place in Laurel Village.
Then two things happened:
1: They opened a location in SFO, at the Terminal 3 Food Court (across from the big United Club) 2: I happened to be in Laurel Village for an appointment.
So off I went for lunch.
I’m glad I went. The food was damn good. Now as the name of the resturant implies, they serve chicken. Well almost. They serve three kinds of chicken, Fried (the BEST), Flipped (rotisserie) and Fake (tofu).
Regarding that last choice, this IS San Francisco and they have to cater to those types here.
Your chicken (or soy product) can be had three ways, as a sando, a salad or an entree. The real chicken entrees deserves special mention in that it’s HALF a chicken with biscuit and salad. Too big for lunch today. They also have varied chicken wings and a lot of sides.
I ordered the Fried Chicken Sando with a side of the Garlic Thyme Potato Wedges. The sando was excellent. It has the right amount of dressing, the chicken was moist and crispy and the roll was almost Dutch Crunchy.
I will save my swoon for the Wedges. Crispy crust on the outside and when you bite into it, hot and almost creamy potato in the middle. I ate at the restaurant so my food came directly from the kitchen (I was sitting next to it). Because of that, fries demanded a fork and three bites to finish, lest I burn my tongue.
Another thing I learned about this place is that they are open to 21:00. Places that are open past 20:00 are becoming a rarity in San Francisco so this is a find!
Nice to find a chicken place nearby that doesn’t start with a K (FC) or that I don’t have to take a road trip for (CFA). I’ll update when I have the half a chicken and Matzo Ball soup.
Proposition Chicken 3465 California Street, Laurel Village San Francisco, CA 94118 415-422-0646
Summertime is bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Everyone tries to go on vacation, airfares and hotels have ridiculous prices and gas prices traditionally spike. This year, even worse. But it’s nice on Labor Day because all the idiots leave The City for Burning Man. Lots of Labor Day parties, despite inflation. And opportunities for rooftop views of a peaceful and empty Civic Center.
It’s common knowledge that San Francisco Chinatown has been slowly dying over the past few decades or so. The need to go to San Francisco and brave the traffic, lack of parking, crime, drug addicts and purposely homeless is no longer there. It started in the 70s and continued with the migration of the Second Generation to the Richmond and Sunset districts and their New Chinatowns. The Chinatown dispora continued to move to other parts of The City and eventually down the Peninsula and to the East Bay. Then Loma Prieta hit. Chinatown was cut off from the Bay Bridge by the destruction of the 480. As a result, Oakland Chinatown thrived at the expense of SF Chinatown. Things that you could only get in SF Chinatown, such as good food or Chinese groceries you can get in most parts of The City and the Bay Area now.
Then Wuhan Virus hit. And “our leaders” in Silly Hall and Sacratomato went overboard with their power trip, ordering businesses closed while continuing to demand full taxes from them. Many old school institutions in SF Chinatown such as the Empress of China, New Asia and Four Seas and even more restaurants and businesses, such as the small places that make noodles and quick food closed too.
SF Chinatown isn’t dead yet, despite San Francisco’s efforts to kill it. Since Wuhan Virus and the attacks on Asian seniors in San Francisco that led to the recall of Chesa Boudin, Chinatown has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts. New places have opened and old places have reopened and/or expanded. More people are attending events such as last weekend’s early Harvest Moon Festival. It’s as the attacks and virus has revived interest in Chinatown and being Chinese.
As I’ve whined about on this blog before, it’s been difficult to find a proper bowl of Hong Kong style Beef Stew Wonton Mein (牛腩馄饨面) in San Francisco. . There have been great places in the past, such as Won Ton King, formerly on Irving at 21st Avenue that made proper prawn won tons and noodles kneaded with the bamboo pole. Emphasis on “formerly”. Many of the shops that made decent WTM have either changed ownership or have closed outright. If you want a good bowl of won ton mein after 19:00, you have to drive to Hing Lung in San Bruno (north of Tanforan). If you’re around for lunch or early dinner, I have two restaurants here for your consideration in Chinatown.
Yin Du Wonton Noodle has been, according to my friends in the know, the best won ton mein in Chinatown for a while now. It even got a recommendation from the local “newspaper”.
I went with my friend who brought his GF and her son and had an early dinner. He raved about the ngau nam and how it was tender, flavorful (fatty) and almost perfect.
You can order ngau nam won ton mein dry here. I didn’t know that. My experience with dry won ton mein comes from ordering the dish in Singapore and Malaysia where it’s served on a plate with a small bowl to dip the noodles in (In Penang, there are many great shops that does both dry and soup versions). I ordered the traditional soup and he ordered it dry. It looks damn good in food porn about and tasted even better. The beef was indeed full of flavor and really tender. The noodles weren’t al dente; they didn’t have that “snap” when you bite into them, but they were still good. The wontons had a decent amount of prawn in them and were good too. We all arrived at 17:00 and they had to kick us out at 19:30 because they wanted to go home (they close at 19:00) and we spent too much time talking about nonsense.
One of the Wuhan Virus victims in Chinatown was the Washington Bakery. They had baked goods and decent wonton. They closed due to the lockdowns, the government and because of some family drama, which I will not go into. The space was taken over by Hon’s Wun-Tun, a small unassuming shop on Kearny and Clay that has been there since 1972 that makes wonton soups.
One block over and half a block up, Hon’s on Washington Street has an expanded menu and a more upscale vibe.
As is the current trend, you can scan the QR code, order and pay from your iPhone (or ‘droid if that’s what you use). Regular ordering via paper menus and a server are available.
Prior to going to Yin Du, we went here the week before to try it out. We ordered a plate of gai lan to start and when it arrived, I thought they got the order wrong. My friend figured they sliced it as well as chopped it. That makes it easier to eat. He was right because normally gai lan is just chopped with oyster sauce on top. It’s kind of like trying to eat a telephone pole because it’s so thick and it does take a lot of effort to bite through it. In that case, I ask for a fork and knife.
Hon’s gai lan. It was easier to eat.
I liked the noodles, they had the proper “snap” to them as well as being al dente. The broth was fish based, as is the norm for practically all the places I’ve been to in Hong Kong. There was some controversy here since my friend has never had wonton mein in Hong Kong and his first reaction was:
“Eww, that’s fishy!“
I’ve never really paid that much attention to the broth other than its consistency. But after he went on about never having broth here that was “fishy”, he had a point. Many places, if not all places here either do a light broth or some broth with the ngau nam gravy mixed in to make it more savory. So I will concede his point.
The beef was a different matter. Either by choice or not, the beef was on the lean side. Chewy. It wasn’t stewed long enough so it had that “falls apart when picked up by chopsticks” consistency. And the other thing about lean beef is that it is lacking in flavor, cos it’s lean beef (filet mignon not included). It was solid, but not yum. The wontons are made in house and they were good too. Good but not fantastical. There was more pork than prawns in the wontons. And the prawns were chopped small and I believe they were frozen.
I will give Hon’s on Washington Street the benefit of the doubt, since we went there during their soft opening. When they have their grand opening, we will do a return visit, because you don’t really need a reason for having ngau nam wonton mein, right?
The other day, I met a friend in Burlingame for lunch before we went to pick up her new car. Since this would take much of the day, she treated for lunch. I don’t have to explain what I ordered.
Stacks is a breakfast/brunch spot in downtown Burlingame. It’s extremely popular on the weekends and it’s a bit of a scene with lots of nice cars driving around. One of their specialities (and my usual go to) is their Bacon Waffle. It’s a large waffle like in the photo, except it has crumbled up bacon in the batter. It’s really good and AFAIK, the only place around here that makes it. I recommend the Bacon Waffle and/or the Fried Chicken and Waffle.
Stacks 361 California Avenue Burlingame, CA 94010 650-579-1384
I think the last time I visited Bistro Jeanty was some time in 2011. I remember it was an Napa outing with a group of friends that ended in the V. Sattui picnic area, scarfing down cheese and charcuterie while having riesling and an A. Fuente cigar.
11 years later, I am at Bistro Jeanty with a group of friends again for a long lunch and an afternoon in Yountville.
After lunch, I paid a visit to Domaine Chandon to see what was new. They’re doing a remodel right now for their 50th Anniversary next year. Chandon specializes in sparkling wine with some regular wines made with their grapes. They had some sparkling wines made with red wine which was new to me, which means Must Try!
Bistro Jeanty 6510 Washington Street Yountville, CA 94599 707-944-0103
Many of the ramen shops in San Francisco fall under the “throw lots of stuff into our ramen so it will hide the missing taste” category. That, along with over salted broth, is why you often feel bloated after finishing your overpriced bowl and wind up a kilo heavier the next morning. It’s hard to avoid since many of the ramen shops around San Francisco are often turnkey restaurants or owned by people who open a restaurant to be on the next trendy thing.
Except ramen shouldn’t be trendy, should it? I mean, it’s considered fast food in Japan and Asia and it’s been around forever.
In my extensive experience in eating ramen, I’ve found that the best bowls are the ones with the least amount of toppings to distract you from enjoying the quality broth and noodles that you should be devouring. Which takes us across the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown San Rafael to Menya Shono.
This location is the first in the US for Menya Shono (there’s a second location in Union City now) and they have done the very difficult: replicated a good bowl of ramen and sides that wouldn’t be out of place in Tokyo, Hakata or Sapporo. The noodles are made in house and the greens and other ingredients are farm to table.
Menya Shono has no menus; you order and pay by smartphone via a QR code and no tipping, meaning the gratuity is baked into the price. The prices seem about the same as San Francisco after tip is factored in. Here’s their online menu. And here are bowls of Shio Ramen from my visits.
The broth was light and complex, both chasius (pork and duck) fell apart when picked up with chopsticks and the toppings of fried garlic and the egg complimented the broth, not overwhelming it. The noodles were snappy and satisfying. The only nit I can pick is the temperature of the broth. It should be steaming hot, not kinda hot. This is a common problem with ramen in California, and to be fair, with most food and drink since the McDonald’s coffee thing.
Do I like this place? YES. I’ll even eat the $9 toll to get home without complaining. Hey, it’s like paying for parking in The City…and your car won’t get its windows broken.
9 months into this partly manufactured “crisis” and the travel and hospitality industries have taken the biggest hit. Travel will never be the same as it was before corona. Usually at this time of year, I’m in Singapore doing the Friendsgiving thing. Not this year. Let’s take a look back at the joy of travel. Because the journey is just as important as the destination.
Business class lunch. I believe I eat better when I’m traveling than when I’m stuck in the states.
This was a fast trip, to be ended with an early morning in Tokyo. It made more sense to get my ramen fix while I was in town, as opposed to being in transit.
This is how transit looks like in Tokyo. The trains are color coded and queueing is orderly. However, it’s a huge crush even at 0700 in the morning. Thankfully people here have a good sense of hygiene. But you don’t have ramen for breakfast here. Yet.
I was in Hong Kong for several days so I decided to get my ramen fix there. Many of the major ramen chains are there including Ichiran.
Ichiran is (in)famous for it’s attitude towards it’s ramen. Instead of tables where you can occupy space for hours, yakking with your friends, their ramen is served individually in cubicles so nothing gets in the way of the ramen. Then when you finish, you leave. Your bowl is customizable. The softness of the noodles, the intensity of the broth and as many (or as little) toppings as you’d like. As it should be.
Since the Singapore leg of this trip was going to be busy, I’m glad I got my fix here.