Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ramen Gaijin - Sebastopolian happiness

Last night my close friend E and I had the opportunity to have a quick dinner sans entire family (her entire family that is) which is a rarity.  We had been gardening at her place all day, were famished, and welcomed the chance to go out without sibling rivalry between her 8 and 4 year old boys taking over the entire experience.  Why is one kid easy and the two together a total disciplinary nightmare?  BOYS!  Anyway, she mentioned the newish ramen place downtown, which I had forgotten after having had a disasterous date there with my ex.   What better way to exorcise a bad memory but to create a good one in its place?!   Plus, we were bringing the 4 year old, and noodles always seem to be popular with the kiddos.
Disclaminer:  This blogpost will not contain any original photos of food.  Sometimes I just don't feel like snapping photos at every meal.   Besides, as a restaurant worker, it smells of a possible Yelp review in the making, which reeks (ask anyone).  So as an alternative, I took screen shots of some decent photos from Yelp.  Ha ha - I really don't think I can get into trouble for copyright infringement - but if I do, this blog will be the first to report it!

I stepped into the queue for a table while E and M parked the car.  They said it would be 20 minutes so I asked for the sake list.  I was crestfallen to discover that the sake list was unavailable as their liquor license was in limbo, being reinstated in about a month (no foul here, they  had shared a liquor license with the neighboring place which was no longer in business).  I was a little bummed, but the smells of ramen were wafting my way, and E and I had already had a couple of Aperol Spritzers at her house, so...
Little M likes the phone and can break into my camera without even my password, so he snapped this:
Snapped from my phone by the 4 year old!
I know, super unexciting view of a server putting an order through the POS system.   There are lots of goodies on the menu, Japanese style goodies that is:  Oshitashi - spinach or greens with fish flakes, soy and vinegar.  The version that night had lightly pickled parsnips and carrots with wilted beet greens, furikake and a nice piquant soy-vinegar dressing.  M gobbled it up.  It is always nice to see a little kid gobbling up greens.  He is usually a picky eater!  Next came the Chicken karaage - marinated and fried chicken thigh with a Japanese style ranch dressing - Theirs is really one of the best around.  I mean, who doesn't like good friend chicken.  There is something sublime or dare I say umami-esque about their marinade(buttermilk?) and crunchy shell, not too thick, with just the right amount of spiece.  I could eat two orders of this with a salad and be done, done!  In fact, one of our pieces of chicken was a bit "medium rare" which we pointed out to the manager.  We were already done with the rest of the order, but he brought out another plate of freshly cooked karaage, and they took all of it off the bill. My fantasies about the night were already coming true.
full disclosure, not my photo , but still a pretty tasting looking rendition of the Chicken Karaage
I wasn't really in the mood for ramen, so ordered the Donburi which came very non-traditionally with pork belly, a fried egg, greens, kimchi, and pickled red onion.  
pirated again, this one of the Donburi
The only thing that made this a "Donburi" was the "over rice" portion of the event.  The sauce was a little heavy handed, as not one morsel of rice lay unadorned. The mayo topping sort of put the dish over the top with heaviness, but I did order a rice bowl after all.  That being said, I would definitely order it again, and ask them for sauce on the side.  The kimchee was perfectly spiced, and the flavor of each ingredient was spot on...  Who doesn't like a nice caramelized chunk of pork belly?

E got the Shoyu Ramen, as she was sharing with the tyke, so couldn't order the spicier version, or Tan Tan Ramen.  They did a solid on the ramen that night, as the kid could not get enough of those noodles.  I need to learn how to make that perfect 6 minute egg, the one where the yolk is still a little runny.
pirated ramen photo, probably the Tan Tan spicy ramen judging from the broth
I'm not sure where they get their noodles, probably the famous ramen factory in San Jose (seriously, there is a ramen factory in San Jose) - but they are nicely bouncy, and the broth, well the photo says it all - they know their broth at this place.  I appreciate it being little lighter, less oily than some.  I love the fatty broth, don't get me wrong (see my previous blogposts), but it is nice to not be inundated sometimes.   We were happy, so I let the boy use the phone again
Author, happy and full!
Considering it was Friday night, 6:30 pm and there was a queue, I would say that Sebastopolians are pretty okay with a restaurant without booze.   I'll be back in 30 days though, as I like my sake (and will probably be waiting much longer for a table), but this place is just fine without it!
Happy camper!




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