Friday, March 05, 2010

Ramen House Ryowa in Berkeley

Piping Hot Noodles Close to Home
2068 University Ave. (between Shattuck and Milvia), Berkeley
PH: 510.883.0667
Lunch and dinner daily

I will drive great distances (when I have access to a car) for a good bowl of ramen. But after my last adventure, I thought I should maybe check out if there’s any good ramen closer to home.

So I visited Ramen House Ryowa in Berkeley on a Saturday for lunch. I’d seen this spot before but never thought about it until my friend Denise mentioned their butter corn ramen. (Note: I didn’t order this ramen because of the slab of butter dropped into the broth, but anywhere that serves corn is fine by me.)

When I entered Ramen House Ryowa, it looked like it had just opened because it was nearly empty except for one other table and because the family behind the counter seemed to be busy prepping ingredients. (Ryowa has another location in Mountain View, so I don’t think the Berkeley location is family-owned and may actually be part of a chain.)

The menu offers a nice lunch special that includes ramen and gyoza, but that’s only served during the weekdays. So I settled instead for just a bowl of Ryowa Ramen ($7.95), which I assume is the house specialty using a sesame broth that I’d never had before.

I thought it was really interesting too that there was this big jar of kim chi at my table, the cover slightly left ajar, letting out the pungent smells to entice you (if you’re a kim chi lover like me). I don’t think I typically see fresh kim chi at the tables at ramen shops, but I wished more people did it. I did try the kim chi, and while it was fresh, the flavor didn’t seem to stick to the vegetables. It was like it didn’t marinate long enough or it was just a mild batch.

When my bowl of ramen arrived, it looked huge and the sesame broth looked deep in color with the slices of chashu (roasted pork) fanned out on top. There was also a half of a boiled egg.

The chashu was just OK, it was no way near the amazing toriniku at Santouka Ramen in San Jose. The broth, which reminded me of the full body of miso, was enjoyable with lots of flavor although it didn’t have a super sesame taste. The egg was a little too hard-boiled for me.

As for the ramen noodles, these were crinkly like I remember of ramen noodles but they weren’t cooked to perfection. In fact, this particular day they seemed overcooked because they felt thick and fat. It was like they had absorbed a bit of the broth, making them soft.

Side note: The service, while friendly, is a bit neglectful. You might ask for things and if they get busy they’ll forget. Like how I asked for the check and they never came back and I saw them busy cutting more vegetables so I had to get up to pay, which is not a good feeling to leave with.

Since this is a mini review, I’m not putting Ryowa up against my rating system but I have to say that there’s probably good reason people drive far for a good bowl of ramen because nothing satisfies nearby. Doesn’t mean I won’t stop searching.

Ramen House Ryowa on Urbanspoon

Other ramen reviews:
Santouka Ramen
Santa Ramen


Patrick said...

A shame because this place used to be really great. I think ownership changed hands (maybe more than once) and it's now a pale shadow of its former glory.

Amy Sherman said...

I liked Ryowa, but I like Genki Ramen even better.

foodhoe said...

Hmmm, the sesame ramen doesn't look very appetising, although I wonder how the basic versions like shio or shoyu are... I like the idea of kimchi on the table too!

esther said...

When you have good ramen, it's hard to go back to something sub par. But I do think kimchi is a GREAT touch!!!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

Too bad. The new proprietors don't seem to realize the reputation and responsibility they carry to making ramen worthy of the name.

Emily said...

Seems like you've moved on to a different blog by now, but I read all of your ramen posts and really appreciate your attention to detail.

We've made the trek from Oakland to both Santa Ramen (our favorite so far) and Himawari (very good) in San Mateo. Had some very mediocre ramen in SF (don't remember where, even). We're curious how Ryowa holds up to Santa... seems like it doesn't, but maybe 2 years later they've worked out some of the kinks.

Thanks for the details!