So for those who know me, you know I’m always craving ramen. Whether my friends are asking “what’s a good date night spot”, “where should I eat, I’m lazy to cook” or “what’s your favorite food” I can honestly say I suggest some type of ramen place everytime time.
I grew up eating ramen as a child. From the good instant ramen brands like Nongshim, Sapporo Ichiban and Nissan to the non-instant gourmet ramen shops around the Bay Area, ramen really IS life (for me). So it only makes sense that I’m on a mission to find the best ramen I can, right?
Before I leave for Japan next weeek, I want to share some of my favorite ramen spots here in the Bay Area; everything from San Francisco to San Jose. Disclaimer: There are a TON of ramen spots but these are my go-tos. Definetely a longer list of honorable mentions🤤
First stop: San Francisco. And among all of the choices available, my favorite remains Izakaya Sozai. Located in the Sunset District, Izakaya Sozai is a small little spot with some delicious ramen and skewers. My go-tos include white pepper fried chicken, enoki mushroom fritters and of course their tonkatsu ramen. I love that Izakaya doesn’t get too complicated when it comes to ramen choices. There’s two flavors, tonkatsu and vegetarian and if you get a chance to come in time for their specials they also have a squid ink tsukemen available!
Okay, but onto the ramen. I absolutely love the creaminess that a tonkotsu broth offers vs. a miso or shio based broth that is little lighter. The broth is not too salty and flavored perfectly. The noodles are the right firmness and neither too chewy or too soggy either. I would highly suggest ordering the fried pork belly on the side for savory addition that melts in your mouth. .
As we travel further down south along the Peninsula, you’ll pass by a lot of different ramen shops including sibling restaurants Ramen Parlor and Ramen Dojo both known to have lines out the door. I do like both of Dojo and Parlor but if you venture a bit further down to Redwood City, you’ll find our next stop; Orenchi ramen which opened up recently. They have an original location in Santa Clara as well if you’re closer to that location but this place is definitely worth checking out.
Unlike their hip San Francisco counterpart Orenchi Beyond, Orenchi Ramen serves more traditional flavors including Tonkatsu, Shoyu and Shio. As mentioned above, I love Tonkatsu broth and this is the only ramen spot I’ve been to where I ordered extra noodles so that I could savor every spoonful of broth. I mean if you’re drinking the ramen broth, that’s gotta tell you something! Topping are standard- a soft boiled egg, bamboo shoots, seaweed and Chashu. The chashu is super tender too, unlike some other ramen places where the broth is good but the egg is overcooked or the chashu is too tough. I would recommend adding fish cake (Naruto) to your ramen, it does make a difference.
Last stop, San Jose! Off to Santouka Ramen 😍. I've been told by people who have travelled to Japan that Santouka is the closest ramen to what you'd find in Japan, here in the states. Located right inside the Mitsuwa Market, Santouka is this little ramen shop set up to be cafeteria style. They have the most tender pork cheek I've ever had, side dishses such as natto over rice (which was also so freaking good) and sizes ranging from small, medium to large. Prices are very reasonable for what you get and definetely worth the trek to the South Bay just for this.
Pictured above is their spicy miso on the top left, their pork cheek shio broth + an egg on the bottom left and natto over rice :)
Honorable mentions: Iza Ramen on Folsom
Ramen Nagi in Palo Alto