Tag Archives: ramen

No Car? No Problem! BARTable Asian Food Goes East (Bay)

In Part 4 of this #BARTable Asian food series finally heads to my hood, the town of Oakland. Continuing along the Richmond-Millbrae line this guide will take you through West Oakland, 12th Street/City Center, 19th Street, and MacArthur Stations.

West Oakland

To be honest, this is the first station we can skip. The two places in remote walking distance of this BART station that serve Asian food are 2 Chinese American takeout spots, neither that serve food that’s any good.

12th Street/City Center

Downtown Oakland’s BART station is surrounded by Asian food, especially given its proximity to Oakland Chinatown.

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shooting Star Cafe

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shooting Star Cafe

In Chinatown one can, of course, find a veritable cornucopia of Chinese food and only blocks away from the station. For Hong Kong style cafe food, I like heading to Shooting Star Cafe (especially good for desserts and Hong Kong style milk tea) and Baby Cafe. For dim sum you can head to Restaurant Peony for arguably some of the best dim sum in the East Bay or Tao Yuen Pastry for some classic Chinatown grab and go dim sum. Gum Kuo and neighboring C&M Bistro are go to spots for Cantonese roast meats, though Gum Kuo also has excellent noodle soups and rice noodle rolls.

Dim Sum at Peony Seafood Restaurant

Dim Sum at Peony Seafood Restaurant

For non-Cantonese food in Chinatown, Spices 3 is the place to go for Sichuanese food and Shandong serves thick noodles and fabulous dumplings if you have a hankering for the heartier fare of Shandong province. And for one of the few Bay Area restaurants with Guilin style noodles, you can go to Classic Guilin Rice Noodles.

Chinatown, however, doesn’t just have Chinese food. For Cambodian food there is Battambang. Vietnamese food can be tastily sampled at one of my downtown favorites, Tay Ho, who’s signature item is the northern Vietnamese dish banh cuon. And for vegetarian Southeast Asian dishes, slightly out of Chinatown on 13th and Franklin is Golden Lotus.

The other side of Broadway in Old Oakland has a few Asian treasures as well. In Swan’s Market is the excellent AS B-Dama that serves great Japanese food. Le Cheval is a spot for decent Vietnamese food closer to the Oakland Convention Center.

19th Street Oakland

Further up in Oakland in Uptown and the northern part of the downtown business district are also a number of Asian restaurants, though they aren’t quite as concentrated as Chinatown. Some of these places below can also be accessed by the 14th Street or Frank Ogawa Plaza exits of the 12th Street/City Center stations but it was easier to delineate each BART station’s offerings at 14th Street.

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

Near 14th and Broadway you have some of my favorites for a work lunch break. I go to Shiba Ramen‘s Oakland restaurant every time I want a comforting bowl of ramen. For Afghan food, there’s the newly expanded Kamdesh. On 15th Street there’s Ma Me House for a pared down menu of solid Vietnamese food and Ichiro Sushi for solid sushi and lunch specials that are filling, but reasonably priced.

Further north, closer to my current office are a few more Asian spots centered mostly around 17th Street. There’s Aburaya for some extremely tasty Japanese fried chicken. A couple doors down is Pho 84 where you can eat classic Southern Vietnamese dishes in slightly more refined settings. Around 22nd and Broadway is one of the few Taiwanese restaurants in the East Bay, Taiwan Bento, where you can eat some Beef Noodle Soup and Gua Bao. If you need some fruit tea or boba to wash down your lunch at any of these spots you can saunter down to Yokee on Franklin Street where you can get some delicious boba or very Instagramable fruit teas.

MacArthur

The final Richmond-Millbrae line station in Oakland is MacArthur, conveniently also the closest to my apartment. It’s also the closest station to Temescal, the neighborhood that contains Oakland’s largest concentration of Korean food in Oakland (yet interestingly enough Koreatown is just to the South). 

For Korean food there are a number of options including Daol Tofu House and PyeongChang Tofu House for their namesake, and tasty, versions of soondubu. Hancook is the new restaurant in town that has Korean style hot pot. And further up Telegraph is Bowl’d, which serves a number of Korean dishes but best serves Bibimbap. Want Korean BBQ? I would venture a little further afield to Mosswood to Ohgane, a wonderful place with delicious BBQ that’s only $22 for All You Can Eat 10PM-2AM each day.

KMG at Hawking Bird

KMG at Hawking Bird

Temescal doesn’t only serve Korean food, however. Other Asian places include the oft-lauded Burma Superstar for Burmese. Down the street is Hawking Bird, the fast casual offshoot of James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare serving decent versions of khao man gai (Thai style chicken rice). Across the street from Hawking Bird and Burma Superstar is Marufuku Ramen which serves a pared down menu of excellent ramen. 

So while San Francisco has plenty of Asian food, take a BART train across the Bay to Oakland where your taste buds can expand with all these excellent options. I dare say that some of these restaurants are better than anything San Francisco has to offer on their particular cuisine.

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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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