On our visit to Japantown in San Francisco, we stopped to get dinner at a reputably tasty noodle house, Suzu. Located inside the Japantown Center, this place is very easy to find as it is directly behind my favorite Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya. Yuzu had a waiting list of approximately 10 people long. Total seating was maybe 50 people max (it was very very small!) with three outside tables (but still inside the building), and twelve tables on the inside. I recommend that you come ready to wait or come early.
I had my first delicious bout with ramen in Salt Lake City, UT., and I had since then been searching for an equivalent ramen. My hopes rose as Suzu was 1) aåuthentic Japanese 2) reknown for its ramen. What a fantastic combo! There was sure to be some tasty ramen that rivaled that of Hapa Grill in Utah!
Items on the tasting menu included:
Tokio Ramen: a pork-based soup (as all ramen normally are) with a few pieces of fatty pork slices, half of a hard-boiled egg cooked in sauce, seaweed, several slices of pickled root, and kamaboko (fishcake).
Tempura Udon: bonito-based soup (fish) with again, seaweed, a few pieces of shrimp tempura, and kamaboko.
Eel and Avocado roll: fresh avocado slices with unagi (bbq eel) wrapped in nori and rice
Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura (appetizer): small pieces of shrimp and vegetable slices, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Served with tempura dipping sauce – this is not soy sauce, nor is it terriyaki or ponzu sauce or soba sauce.
The verdict: huge disappointment.
The Tokio ramen, first of all, tasted like it was made with water from the Dead Sea. In other words, it was true to its origin in being Japanese by being way too salty. On my trip to Japan in 2008, Momma Lim and I had stopped by a local street ramen store that appeared to be pretty popular by the amount of locals that were eating in it. The ramen was so salty that we had to pour iced green tea (served complimentary) into our soup to eat the ramen. They did say that colon cancer is 2nd (or was it 1st) cause of death in the country. Lung cancer actually may top that being that Japanese people love their cigarettes. But I digress… the Tokio ramen at Suzu was equivalent to that soup base in Tokyo. Would it have been different if it was a different ramen like miso ramen? Perhaps, but salty ramen is still salty ramen! And salt is not good as an overdose!
Second, my noodles were not the chewy texture that they were in Salt Lake City. In fact, it was a little hard, maybe al dente. I don’t know if ramen is supposed to be al dente, but I prefer my ramen noodles to be cooked all the way through, just not soggy. Third, there was no egg! The egg is crucial to a good bowl of ramen!
I can’t say that the tempura udon was exceptional either. I’ve had others that were equivalent if not better than what I tasted that night. For one, there seemed to be a lack of sustenance in the dish. After you put in your tempura shrimp which was served separately (and for good reason otherwise they would’ve become super soggy), there was only a few pieces of actual seaweed and kamaboko pieces. The majority of the dish was udon noodle and soup!
The tempura appetizer was pretty good. Then again, anything fried and dipped in tempura sauce sounds pretty yummy. The roll wasn’t that outstanding either. It wasn’t a special roll, but it did come as a combo with the Tokio Ramen.
- Tokio Ramen: **.5/*** (2.5 borderline 3 stars)
- Tempura Udon: **.5 (2.5 stars)
- Tempura appetizer: *** (3 stars)
- Unagi-Avocado roll: *** (3 stars)
If you still plan on heading over to Japan town to try out Suzu, the information is:
825 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115-3607