I've alluded before to my inability or unwillingness to fully embrace ramen culture, for a number of reasons – noodles that lack robustness, broths that tend to be too salty and/or muddy for my tastes, and toppings so skimpy as to provide the purveyors an opportunity to nickel and dime you to death for add-ins. Add to this the assault on my sense of value by hipster ramen-makers who have raised the ante by charging their cohorts $14 for a bowl with the World's Greatest Ramen Broth that they perfected over Spring break just last year, and you'll shed a tear for me. Or not.
On the other hand, there is something endearing about a ramen-ya. Like a pho joint, its sole purpose is to provide you with a bowl of noodles. (I can only dream about Chinese style mian guans dotting the landscape the way those two do.)
There was no wait at 1:45 when I arrived, even though the place is still lacking tables. (The whole cener of the room looked like a dance floor; I read somewhere they are planning to install communal tables.) I ordered the house specialty, “20-Hour Tonkotsu Ramen” with no extra toppings, but with a side of gyoza, after determining that they are house-made, whereas the takoyaki on the menu start out frozen.
My ramen came in a medium-size bowl, though it was fuller than some larger bowls I've been served, and the broth-to-noodles ratio was salutory. The broth itself was rich in a restrained way, cloudy but without an overt fattiness, and had what I perceived as mushroom overtones. The noodles were of the finest variety (thickness-wise, that is) and retained their springiness and bite to the end. Toppings featured a couple of thin slices of meltingly tender chashu and half a soft-cooked egg; secondary toppings were minimal.
Overall, it was one of the better bowls of ramen I have had (though I would like fatter noodles), and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Ramen Yamadaya has somehow found a way to rein in the unctuousness of a rich broth, which I appreciated. (There's a kotteri version on the menu, if you are a glutton for punishment.)
L.A., send us more noodles. (But keep your burgers to yourself.)
Where slurped: Ramen Ymadaya, 1728 Buchanan St, Japantown, San Francisco
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