Tag Archives: ramen

Shiba Ramen’s Ramen, Ranked

Shiba Ramen
1438 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

As I mentioned previously, I generally try to avoid reviewing another location of a restaurant I have previously reviewed. The two exceptions have been Din Tai Fung (to blog about the original Din Tai Fung versus the one in Glendale) and Tim Ho Wan (to blog about how its first US location in New York City compares to Hong Kong). I do this because chains, in general, vary little location to location. For instance, while the Alhambra location of Tasty Garden might be the best location, the Monterey Park, Westminster, and Irvine locations aren’t too far off in general.

That said, I felt compelled to write a blog post about Shiba Ramen’s second location in downtown Oakland, just across the street from my office. I felt compelled because of two reasons: 1) my review in Emeryville was of one item and felt a bit incomplete and 2) Shiba Ramen has become my favorite ramen place in Oakland. There is also one key difference between their two locations, the use of ceramic bowls in Oakland as opposed to melamine bowls in Emeryville. Ceramic bowls retain heat a little better, addressing the temperature issues I had in Emeryville.

But instead of a traditional review, I’ll do a countdown of all the bowls of ramen they sell, from least favorite to “best”. Of course, this is a highly subjective ranking so your mileage may very based on your taste. So without further ado…

8) Spicy Ramen – It’s not that the spicy ramen is a bad ramen, but I’m generally not a fan of ground pork in noodle soups and I don’t find the broth that spicy. I much prefer the original Sichuanese dan dan mian instead.

7) White Bird – The thickest and fattiest ramen broth of the group, the White Bird adds another level of rich flavor akin to the tonkotsu ramen that many Americans are used to seeing. That said, the rich fattiness quickly cools off, coagulating a little too quickly and not landing well after the first few slurps.

6) Summer Ramen (seasonal special) – The yuzu dressing is light and refreshing and the noodles are great. Unfortunately, I’m not quite a fan of the cold slices of cooked chashu and I’ve never really been a fan of raw tomatoes. That said, it is a great alternative to ramen broths on a hot summer day.

5) Miso – Less thick than the White Bird but still almost as rich, the miso is a very well rounded ramen broth. I love that there’s a lot of vegetables in the ramen as well. I’m just sad that the time consuming nature of the dish means that its generally only available during the evening service (after I leave work).

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Soymilk Ramen at Shiba Ramen

4) Soymilk – This is, without a doubt, the best vegetarian ramen broth I have ever had. The broth is rich and thick with flavor with a soymilk base wile being light enough to balance the various vegetables in the broth. In the summer the ramen is topped off with a grilled romanesco (during the winter they used kabocha squash) which provides something a little crunchy and hearty in place of a meat protein.

3) Clear – Shiba’s shio ramen is perfect in its simplicity. It’s clear and light which allows the pork, noodles, and menma to shine. While the lighter broth is great for when you are feeling less well, it’s lack of a little more umph means it doesn’t quite hit my number 1.

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Dry Ramen at Shiba Ramen

2) Dry – The tender chunks of pork with a little bit of the marinade and dressing mixes so well with ramen cooked perfectly. Honestly, it was almost my number one ramen from Shiba, but it’s definitely one of my go to ramens in Oakland

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

1) Clear Dark – The soy sauce base combines with the clear broth to make a shoyu ramen that is rich with umami but still light enough not to feel heavy. It is a perfectly balanced broth and Shiba adds to that with a few leaves of bok choy to complement to the chashu. The Clear Dark is absolutely wonderful and my top recommendation.

Regardless of what you order, however, it is unlikely you’ll be disappointed by your meal at Shiba Ramen. As a bonus, they have a bunch of appetizer items to whet your appetite include delicious chicken wings and lotus chips. If you’ve ever eaten at the Shiba Ramen in downtown Oakland, it’ll be easy to see why I enjoy it as an easy lunch spot.

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O Ramen, Albuquerque

O Ramen
2114 Central Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

I’m not quite in Vancouver yet, but before I bombarded my blog with a number of posts from British Columbia, I wanted to take a brief detour to my current home of Albuquerque.

Ramen, as some of my friends may know, has become an absolute craze in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities in the past 7-8 years. While bowls of fresh, rich ramen have been a staple in Japan for a long time, David Chang’s Momofuku is often credited as sparking the proliferation of Japanese style ramen shops in the United States. The spread of ramen’s cult following has been huge in coastal cities, but it remained notable absent from Albuquerque and other inland cities, until now.

When I heard that there was Japanese style ramen in Albuquerque, I jumped to try it. I went on a date a few weeks ago to try the tonkatsu ramen (their deluxe ramen) and curry (but did not blog about it due to the birthday post backlog). Last week, a friend and I went for lunch where I was able to try their vegetarian ramen. Thoughts on the items below:

Deluxe Ramen

Deluxe Ramen

  • Deluxe ramen – excellent, rich, but not too thick, pork broth broth. The noodles were perfectly done and had the perfect amount. Unfortunately, while the chashu pork fat was melt in your mouth luxurious, the pork meat was dry and tough. I also liked the nori and the perfectly soft-boiled egg.
Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu Curry

  • Chicken Katsu Curry – The chicken was breaded very nicely, locking the tender juices of the chicken while having just enough crispiness for crunch. The curry was milder than I like (even for Japanese curry, which is more sweet than spicy), but you can tell that the curry was home made with small chunks of lightly pureed peas and other vegetables
Vegetarian Ramen

Vegetarian Ramen

  • Vegetarian Ramen – whoever says that vegetarian broth is always bland can use a lesson or two from O Ramen. There was a very rich, umami laden broth with a base of several tasty mushrooms, in addition to the herbs and seasoning on top. The tofu was nice and crispy too, though the breading became very soggy, very quickly in the broth (but that was to be expected). This bowl of ramen absolutely defeated my appetite and while I wanted to drink more of the broth and eat more noodles, I could not 3/4 of the way in.

The service is pretty good as well. There are generous refills of water and the check came just right after we finished the meal.

All in all, the quality of the ramen is arguably even better than lesser ramen crazed cities like San Diego and puts O Ramen near the top of my list of Albuquerque area eats.

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Daikaya, Washington D.C.

Daikaya
705 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Mother’s Day one year ago I started this blog in memory and honor of my wonderful mama, who introduced me to the world of delicious food across East and Southeast Asia. Given that this is a one year anniversary of sorts, I was debating on what to write about. Do I write about a restaurant I have already posted about because I would be eating dishes that my mother would love? Do I write about a new restaurant eating dishes my mom would order, but the execution was subpar? Finally, do I write about a restaurant that serves dishes that my mom would be less experienced in, but is just really good?

I opted for the latter because, at the end of the day, my mom was about eating good food around magnificent company and, on occasion, experiencing new things.

Daikaya

A few weeks ago when I was in DC, I had a quick lunch with a friend of mine after touring the NPR building. We decided on Daikaya, a restaurant serving ramen that has a good reputation and was between where I was visiting and where my friend was working. Given Daikaya’s rave reviews, I was ready to see how it stacked up not just to Toki Underground, the previous king of ramen in DC, but to the great ramen joints in Southern California and New York City.

Fortunately we arrived at Daikaya just before the DC lunch rush started crowding the restaurant. Within about 10 minutes we were seated in their modern bar-esque type seating arrangement. We were promptly served water and ordered relatively quickly. I got the spicy miso ramen with chashu and soft boiled egg.

After waiting for about 10-15 minutes, the bowls of ramen came to our table. The first sip of the soup was heavenly, with a perfect amount of spice and salt. As a person who usually eats Hakata style tonkotsu ramen, which can be a bit salty, I was pleasantly surprised with the lightness but also complexity of the spicy miso flavor. The ramen noodles were cooked just right, which was wonderful given that Toki Underground can have a tendency to overcook their noodles. The soft boiled eggs were also cooked just right with the flavors balancing the spice of the broth really well. The chashu was the only disappointment. It wasn’t bad, per se, but could have been sliced thicker as well as had juicier and fattier cuts of pork.

Overall, Daikaya definitely beat Toki Underground to take the title of “Best Ramen in DC” in my book. As for the comparison between Daikaya and ramen shops in LA or NYC? I feel Daikaya was comparable, but I probably need to eat more Sapporo style ramen shops in either city before I can really judge.

In the end, I think my mama would have agreed with my decision on good food and great times with friends. Given that Daikaya also has an Izakaya upstairs, it looks like I will have more opportunities in the future for friends and food, just as my mom would have wanted it.

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Uncle, Denver

Uncle
2215 W. 32nd Ave.
Denver, CO 80211

tofu

My first foray into authentic Japanese style ramen that you could find bountifully in Tokyo was the much vaunted Momofuku Noodle Bar, the restaurant that helped launch celebrity chef David Chang to fame. I came into the bar knowing about the rave reviews, but still a skeptic because I had been trained to believe that ramen was just cheap noddles to be thrown together in an instant if you’re hungry, like most Americans. The first bite at Momofuku, however, converted me to a ramen lover in an instant.

To be sure, the price was expensive. If my memory is correct, the ramen itself was $20-25, a rament splurge even by New York standards. However, the pork was so tender, the broth so refreshing, and the egg so perfectly soft poached. I remember coming back to California in the winter of 2009 searching for anywhere that had ramen, and I was fortunate given that Southern California was in the midst of a ramen craze.

Moving to Denver, I was searching for a ramen place to fill the void. Most places I saw that might have it were either way to far or very lowly rated, until I read a copy of 5280’s 10 Best New Restaurants. That is where I found Uncle, which has win other numerous awards and been named one of the city’s best restaurants in less than a year since its opening.

On Friday, having no dinner plans and needing aid to fight a potential cold, I decided to drive to the LoHi neighborhood of Denver to eat at Uncle. The food and the service did not disappoint.

Let’s start with the service. When I entered the restaurant the hostess put down my name and gave me an estimated wait time. That is all standard procedure, but then she asked if I wanted something to drink. She immediately delivered my birch beer and glass water with no hesitation. After I was seated, it took a little time for my server to get to me, but after our initial greetings she was very attentive without being overbearing.

ramen

As for the food, it is as good as any place I would find in LA or NYC. I ordered the chilled tofu appetizer and kimchi ramen. The chilled tofu was perfectly marinated, with a light refreshing soy sauce, fried green onions, and sesame seeds. There was a perfect balance between soft and crunch. The kimchi ramen was pretty good too, with house made kimchi, a broth with good balance of spiciness and sourness (from the kimchi), and a perfectly soft poached egg. My one fault of the dish was the fact that they used braised, shredded pork instead of the more traditional slices of chashu (marinated barbeque pork), which made the dish less full. It was not a huge turnoff, but a minor disappointment to what I thought would be a heartier meal.

In total I spent about $20, plus tax (ramen – $14, tofu – $3, birch beer – $3), which is certainly not bad for a well regarded restaurant in such a trendy neighborhood like LoHi. I have yet to try their oft-praised pork buns or their traditional ramen yet, but given my rewarding first experience I bet I will b their soon.

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