If there’s one thing Japan can do better than rice, it’s ramen. Here on the bay, ramen is served as a luxury meal, with a bowl starting at $ 20. I often crave 500 yen ($ 4.45) available on almost every street corner in my old neighborhood in one of Tokyo’s twenty-three boroughs. With steam-tinted windows, the small and intimate shops offer protection from the vibrant city. Shopkeepers are dignified, the prices reasonable, and it is almost impossible to have a “bad” meal.
I remember my first experience of ramen since returning to the US almost a year ago. The establishment in question could only be described as “trendy”, with an excess of decorative design to make up for the lack of service. I looked at my ramen bowl, which contained all of the staples. Egg, nori (dried seaweed), negi (spring onions) and of course the pasta. The shock of receiving my bill was almost as unsettling as entering my house without taking off your shoes. Worst of all, the food was more bland than regular white rice! But I’ve learned to find beauty in the broth. Now, more than the noodles, I long for that warm welcome that sounds every time someone comes through the noren (threshold curtains): “Irrashaimase!” (Welcome to!)
Since moving to Oakland, my mission has been to find the perfect bowl and maybe satisfy my emotional appetite while I’m at it. Sure, you can go into town and wait hours for what can only be considered chicken noodle soup … but why do you when you can find the best of the best here in Oakland? I ventured far and wide (while staying within the 77.6 square miles of town) and what I found is sure to pique your stomach’s curiosity.
Shiba Ramen is a casual downtown hangout. Conveniently located near 12th Street BART station, it’s the perfect spot for happy hour chicken wings and shochu (Japanese distilled alcohol). The menu consists of classic combinations, with the Spicy Ramen reminiscent of the instant noodles that are common in the pantries of student dormitories. For $ 14, the ingredients are higher quality and the taste is more sophisticated than what we all had in college. This style is less common than the more traditional tonkotsu (pork) or shoyu (soy sauce) style ramen often seen in Japan. As someone who loves to feel the burn, I was overjoyed.
Classic ramen toppings like fresh bok choy, bean sprouts, and spring onions give the soft-steamed pork a satisfying crunch, while the noodles themselves have just enough bite to avoid an unfortunate mushy texture. The creamy goma (sesame) goes perfectly with the spiciness of the soup, so it is by no means intrusive. The atmosphere is very relaxed compared to other “boutique” ramen spots for which I am eternally grateful.
The treat has become such a trendy dish that we forgot the root principle behind ramen. After the creation of instant ramen in 1958, the dish became a cheap, quick meal shared in the company of strangers. The long bar style table provides just that, a means of camaraderie even when dining alone.
Further information: 1438 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. Saturday, 11.30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday, closed.
It opens sharp at 5:30 p.m., and Marufuku Ramen already has a line of hopeful guests impatiently waiting to enter. The Oakland office in the heart of Temescal is naturally cute and quaint. Comic-style pop art graces the walls, and a wide, arched bar invites eaters to chat openly.
Your Paitan DX ramen is limited to just fifteen customers per day. So if you are looking for a life changing ramen experience you better hope you are one of them. Paitan means something “milky” in Japanese. As long as it is a thick, cloudy soup, the content does not matter. A tonkotsubroth can even be Paitan. The Paitin Chicken DX Ramen is a light and protein-rich treat that makes you feel like walking on clouds. This dish consists of chicken broth, chicken chashu (braised meat slices), a soft-boiled egg, corn, spring onions, kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts, nori, and most importantly, a whole dang chicken leg. The chicken leg is served on its own hotplate soaked in soy sauce, sugar and various spices.
There’s something about a sizzling dish that turns heads and makes nearby customers rethink their menu choices. The meat is easy to pull out of the bone to place over the ramen, but I noticed that many diners simply eat out of the bowl with the leg thrown in. Although the noodles are not typical of ramen and are strangely reminiscent of angel hair noodles, I still find the food extremely authentic and healthy in his experiments.
The restaurant is very similar to the more modern izakayas (Japanese pubs) found in the posh Ginza and Roppongi areas of Tokyo. Traditional izakayas provide a relaxing and casual environment for drinking, eating, and chatting. The newer additions are based on classic pub fare like yakitori (chicken on a spit) and yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), giving them a contemporary makeover with new and specialty ingredients while enhancing decor and style. This is exactly what Marufuku did with the ramen menu, using traditional recipes and experimenting with their presentation.
Prices are surprisingly reasonable given this seal of approval, around $ 12 for a regular size and $ 15 for the DX. Marufuku Ramen produces what most of the other ramen shops in the bay have not yet achieved: a truly authentic bowl of Paitan ramen. Adding a chicken leg doesn’t hurt either.
Further information: 4828 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609
Wednesday to Thursday from 5.30pm to 10pm; Friday to Saturday from 5pm to 12pm; Sunday, 5pm – 10pm; Closed Monday to Tuesday.
Imagine a secret underground cave covered in glittering diamonds … but in this case the diamonds are ramen noodles. This is essentially the ramen shop in the Rockridge boutique shopping district.
In true Bay Area fashion, the ramen menu changes frequently to use seasonal vegetables and flavors. One thing that is used all year round is the vibrant and light handmade pasta.
The roasted sesame miso ramen satisfies every longing for home-made home cooking. Creamy tomatoes mixed with miso, roasted sesame seeds and ground pork make a Bolognese-style soup base that soothes the soul. This ensures a hearty and healthy presentation with extremely freshly roasted cauliflower, purple cabbage, red onions and shungiku (crown daisies). Their menu offers a variety of vegetarian and experimental dishes, but their shining star is definitely that bowl of perfection. (At least until the menu changes again.)
I also recommend the optional pork chashu no matter which main course you choose. The chashu in the ramen shop is buttery, sweet and goes perfectly with the savory ramen they serve. Marinated in soy sauce, sugar and sake, it should melt in your mouth.
The design is elegant and minimalist and reflects the unique frames. It shows an impressive bar, stylish mood lighting and lacquered wood paneling. This is definitely not your mom and pop shop, but you’re definitely going to be a little homesick when it comes to eating – and pasta of all things.
Further information: 5812 College Ave. Oakland, CA 94618
Monday to Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 4 p.m. – 12 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 4 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.
The ramen in Oakland don’t usually stick to the books, but that’s what makes it so special. There is still warmth and pleasure in every bowl. If authenticity is your thing, you have to book a flight and roam the streets of Tokyo to get the right deal. However, if you are looking for a truly unique dining experience that will challenge and redefine your perception of pasta and broth, find yourself in the company of one of these restaurants. And don’t worry about sipping; It is considered rude not to do so.
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