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.

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.

Not a lot of toppings…I mean you can see the noodles and everything
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

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.

Ramen Usefulness!

Contrary to popular belief, this blog is NOT a ramen blog! Or rather, this blog is not JUST a ramen blog…
That being said, here’s a useful site that explains the different styles of ramen that’s out there. Eventually, this will go onto the blogroll once I find a good template I can tweak without messing it up.
*hat tip to Tastespotting*

Ippudo Story NY

After my first visit to Ippudo Shibuya back in March, I vowed to eat this delicious ramen again! Even if I had to travel all the way to New York! It’s only 5+ hours to JFK from SFO…
So last weekend, I did that. Flew to New York. To eat and drink. Actually, I was in New York for a different event and wound up with some time on Sunday morning to visit Ippudo NY. It’s just north of Astor Place station on the 6 line. Astor Place should be renamed to “ramen place” because this is the station that leads to St. Mark’s place and the East Village. Or as I call it, “ramen central” for the United States. All the good ramen shops are here in this small area of Manhattan (with the sole exception of Ichiran, which has opened up a branch in Greenpoint), both home grown (Momofuku) and from Japan (Ichiran).
There’s no doubt about where you are when you see the front door. It has that rustic feel like the Tokyo location. Until you actually walk through the front door.
As you walk through these doors, you will be transported to Japan…
Then all of a sudden, it’s not rustic anymore. It’s very modern in a neo-japonesque kinda way.
How modern! How big! How modern!
As with all things American, it’s big! Compared to the Shibuya location, it’s at least four times as big. Comfortable chairs and big tables. However, the menu is roughly the same. Which is a good thing. This time I went for the Akamaru Shin-Aji with the signature red glob of pork fat in the middle of the bowl.
the noodles are hiding under the broth…
You’re supposed to stir it up. This is how the broth changes after you stir it up. And I was transported back to Japan and better days. Springy noodles. Rich pork fat reinforced broth. Wonderfully tender (albeit a bit small) slices of roast pork. Garlic and negi in excellent proportions. And a second helping of noodles. Yes, I was very happy consuming lunch. After I finished my bowl, I was experiencing pork overload. Didn’t mesh too well with the slight hangover I was nursing.
orangish porky broth goodness!
Ippudo NY has a cash bar in the front of the restaurant that has various beers (Kirin, Sapporo) on tap as well as Yebisu in bottles and featured sakes.
Now that’s a lotta bowls…
The hella cool thing is that they have a 2 for $6 happy hour beer deal during the week. That includes Yebisu! I had one to balance out my system, which was dealing with a wine induced sneaky hangover and tonkotsu broth overload when I needed to go to the bathroom, which was downstairs. Besides the bathrooms being nice, I discovered something else on my trip to the bathroom…
Two long glass slits next to doors that say “private”. What are they doing inside these mysterious rooms? Why they’re making broth! And noodles! From scratch!
Here’s the dough…
that turns into noodles in your soup!
So, yes you can get authentic Hakata ramen in the United States. Well, you can get authentic Hakata ramen in New York. This is a “must visit” place when you’re here on the island.
Ippudo NY
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003