Saturday, January 23, 2016

Slurping Down Tonkotsu "Kuro" Ramen At Slurp Ramen In Chinatown

Slurp Ramen opened around Christmas 2015 on Commercial St. in Chinatown.  Despite what Tamara Palmer says about my ramen-scouting diligence, I tend to have other noodle priorities and am typically dilatory when it comes to finding out what new ramen joints have to offer. Slurp's location within my usual stomping grounds  pushed it to the top of my ramen-ya bucket list, however;  I haven't had what I could consider a "local" ramen shop since Kirimachi left North Beach and I felt I owed Slurp an audition. Noodlesse oblige.

Slurp Ramen is located in the 700 block of Commercial St., across from the ghosts of the National Noodle Company and within the official boundaries of Chinatown (the only dedicated ramen shop with this distinction). It's a quiet, nondescript block with no other retail uses, and Slurp Ramen is almost invisible from the sidewalk until you come abreast of it.  Though compact, it's no jerry-built hole in the wall, but tastefully if sparsely appointed, with dark wooden  tables (mostly four-tops and two-tops) and a faux granite counter along the kitchen area for solo diners like me.  The latter helps give it a certain intimacy, and to this gaijin Slurp Ramen looks like a ramen shop should look. Service, at 2:00 on a Friday afternoon, was practiced, prompt and upbeat, though almost bordering on the formal.

Slurp Ramen features tonkotsu broth ramen (who doesn't, these days?) with several flavors including shoyu, miso and spicy miso. They also offer a straight shoyu broth ramen.  Along with the ramen, the well-rounded menu includes small rice bowls and sides such as gyoza and chicken karaage, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and desserts.

Being a masochist, I ordered the "Tonkotsu Black" (tonkotsu broth with blackened garlic oil added) even though I am not a fan of tonkotsu ramen generally. Somewhat paradoxically, my favorite all-time ramen experience to date has been with a "kuro" (black) tonkotsu ramen at Hide-Chan Ramen in New York, whose copious use of the bitter oil aggressively countered the smarmy unctuousness of the tonkotsu broth. As with my other attempts to recapture Hide-Chan's kuro tonkotsu magic locally, Slurp's version  came up short, with the sparing use of the oil providing mere accents to the richly fatty, salty broth.  This may in fact be the intent, and if you are a confirmed tonkotsu fan you will probably like this selecton very much; I'll add that the curly noodles had the appropriate "snap" to them, the half soft-boiled egg cooked just right, and the thin, broad slice of chashu as tasty as it was decorative. with As for me, I'll probably try the spicy miso version or the straight shoyu ramen on my next visit.

At lunchtime Slurp Ramen offers "combinations" in which for two or three bucks more you can add half orders of various sides to your ramen.  I went with "Combo A," which included a half order of house-made pork gyoza. These were very good, and next time I'll probably spring for a full order.

Insofar as I need a ramen "local" (perhaps I'll succumb to the ramen craze), I've found one in Slurp Ramen.

Whee slurped (d'oh): Slurp Ramen, 710 Commercial Street, SF (next to Kumon).

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