Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jay Hamada's Izakaya Roku Opens on Market St.: "Kuro" Ramen FTW!

Two things drove me to the official opening of Izakaya Roku on Market near Octavia Street.  First, it gave me a chance to wish proprietor Jay Hamada well on his new venture.  Hamada is also the proprietor of the JapaCurry truck, whose products, along with Hamada's expansive personality, have spread cheer among food truck fans throughout the Bay Area. (In fact, I had my first JapaCurry curry at Off the Grid's McCoppin Hub venue, a mere stone's throw from Roku's location.). Second, and probably more importantly, the word was out that he might be serving kuro (black) ramen.  Kuro ramen is a ramen that has its broth seasoned with charred garlic; I had my first bowl of the stuff two years ago at Hide-Chan in New York, and it was the first time I truly loved a bowl of ramen. I had yet to find a bowl of kuro Ramen in San Francisco, though there were reports it could be found at a ramen-ya in Mountain View.

Roku's menu features a small ramen section (it's an izakaya, after all, with lots of other small plates) with three varieties of tonkotsu ramen: "white" (regular), "red" (spicy) and.... wait for it... BLACK (charred garlic)!  I ordered a bowl of the "black" ramen and a side of nikumaki onigiri (in lieu of my usual side of gyoza, which isn't currently on Roku's menu).

I wasn't disappointed by Roku's black garlic ramen. While not not as heavily laced with oil from charred garlic as Hide-Chan's "Hakata" kuro ramen (which resembled a miniature of the Gulf oil spill), the charred garlic added enough smoky astringency to de-cloy the rich tonkotsu broth (you might guess I am not a tonkotsu fan).  The toppings included three generously sized fatty chashu slices and a perfectly done soft-boiled egg;   the noodles (sourced from a San Jose manufacturer) were also perfectly springy.  I'll certainly be back to try the spicy tonkotsu, as well as to revisit the kuro ramen and perhaps check out some more of the sundry non-noodle goodies.

Where slurped: Izakaya Roku, 1819 Market St. at Pearl St,, San Francisco

1 comment:

  1. I am curious if you found the broth to be bitter because of the garlic? I tried this last night and found it almost inedible. The only flavor i tasted was bitter oil. I take it the oil is purposeful based on your comment about Hide-Chan. The fattiness of the pork was better than it being tough like so many bad ramens out their, but I would have liked a little meat. And it looks like you got a whole egg to my half egg.


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