Menya Shono San Rafael. Better ramen than in San Francisco

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.

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.

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Noodle machine that makes Noodles

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.

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Not a lot of toppings…I mean you can see the noodles and everything
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There’s pork and duck chasiu and kale there. The only way I will eat the latter is in this ramen.

The broth was light and complex, both chasius 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. 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…

Menya Shono
908 4th Street
San Rafael, CA 94941

How Tokyo was, from my memory.

One of the great joys denied to travelers now is the simple act of wandering around Tokyo and soaking it all in. Like this from a previous visit in a Tokyo Metro station…

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…or attending a matsuri while you’re in town. This is from the Koenji Awaodori which happens in late August…

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Awa dancers performing at the Koenji Awaodori

…or looking west from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observation deck and seeing Fuji-San on a clear day. I miss doing these things and exploring Tokyo.

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Let’s get nostalgic, shall we?

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.

Gratitutious Ramen entry

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.

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Shinagawa. Going from the Keikyu Line to JR.

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.

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Hard noodles, rich broth with scallions and red oil. YESSSSSS

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The aftermath after one serving of kaedama.

Since the Singapore leg of this trip was going to be busy, I’m glad I got my fix here.

Something here does not belong

I took a stroll up Nathan Road to Mong Kok after the protests of October 6th. This is Exit E 1.

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The result when politicians ignore the people they are supposed to serve.

Something there does not typically belong.

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Aha. A bus stop in front of an MTR entrance?

Mong Kok Station was especially hit hard by the protestors that night. The windows above were knocked out so you could peer inside and see the mess going down.

I wasn’t the only one who was taking pictures.

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Even though the station was damaged, the nearby shops were open for business and untouched.

I took a panorama but I’m not sure if it will work properly on this site.

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Close by shops open for business the next day; the MTR, not so much.
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Some Mask Law humor. Coff coff

I don’t condone the attacks on the MTR. They are in a bad position. The MTR supported the protestors in the beginning. But because they are also public transit, they got their orders from the government to transport cops and not cooperate with the protestors. The problem is that everyone uses the MTR and by vandalizing it to the point that half the system shuts down (like on 7 October) doesn’t help and turns potential supporters against the cause. So stop already.

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The MTR on October 7. As you can see, major stations are closed as well as the Tsuen Wan and Ma On Shan lines. At least the other KCR lines (East and West Rail) were open.

Return to the Firing Range

It’s been close to two years since I exercised my 2nd Amendment rights. And during that time, two firing ranges (coincidentally the two closest to San Francisco) have closed. So the nearest range to San Francisco is in San Leandro. 90 minutes travel time during daylight. The price of ammunition has also spiked thanks to liberal slime in Sacramento, except for .22LR, which is still affordable. Soooo range time means practicing with a Walther P22 and a Henry Survival Rifle, both chambered in .22LR.

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First few magazines after two years. I’m still pulling to the left.
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Last target of the day. There was also a headshot, not pictured. Grouping could be better.

Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts

That’s the official name. It consists of three colonial buildings: Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and the Victoria Prison as well as a modern add on.

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Central Police HQ entrance from parade grounds
Upstairs is The Dispensary, the former mess and now a fancy bar.
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The Victoria Prison once held Ho Chi Minh as a guest.

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Rules of the Magistracy.
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Leftover sign from when this was a functioning government building.

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The police station has a armory where an exhibit on weapons and gear are on view.

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Crest of the Royal Hong Kong Police

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Good advice for law enforcement. Some of them don’t use their brains (SJPD, UCPD).

Tai Kwun
10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong

Take the Travelator and there’s a set of wide new stairs about halfway up. That’s the easy way in.

M Power and progeny

Another one from the BMW Museum. The engine in the foreground is the first M engine that powered the M1. The display also had headphones so you could listen to how each engine sounded up to redline.