May 30, 2012

Great UM Noodletown: Ramen Parlor (San Mateo)

by Kayoko

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When it comes to matters of eating out, I am pretty inflexible. Since I will travel long distances for good food, I get pretty upset if I don’t get what I had originally intended. By nature, I am quite stubborn (classic Taurean trait), and I am even more so about what I eat.

So when my family and I met up in San Mateo for Ramen Dojo, the line was of course hellishly long. Kuni cannot stand waiting for anything as he is always in a hurry for everything (classic Tokyo ojisan trait), and I knew this would be no exception. But I traveled all the way to San Fucking Mateo for RAMEN! There was no way I was leaving without a bowl of noodles.

Luckily, we had passed an odd-looking spot around the corner called Ramen Parlor.

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How cute is this? The katakana letters really stood out on this corner.

The sign alone was right out of a 90s princess anime show, like this one:

My guess is that Ramen Parlor was a breakfast house or some very Americana 24 hour coffee shop before, like Denny’s. It is hilarious to me that a ramen shop would move into this suburban corner and land with such “I Am Japanese Ramen House” deft. The Bay Area is so surreal this way. And also just WEIRD.

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Cozy brick interior. Again, so Americana.

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We were able to get a seat for lunch no problem. Turns out that Ramen Parlor is owned by Kazunori Kobayashi, the same guy who started Santa Ramen in the late 90s, then blew everyone’s mind with Ramen Dojo — all in San Mateo. (Bay Area Ramen Trivia: Ramen Dojo is located in the old Santa Ramen). The last time I went to Santa I left pretty disappointed — the Akaboris agree that it’s not as good as it used to be, when they were smaller. I still have not been to Dojo.

As usual, we started with a slew of appetizers. Basically, the menu consists of either ramen, or small plates of anything deep fried. So don’t come here on a diet.

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Takoyaki (octopus balls), deep fried. These were not home made.

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Chicken karaage (fried chicken) with kaiware daikon (radish sprouts), grated daikon, and ponzu. This was refreshing.

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The karaage dish was garnished with this strips of togarashi (chili). It seems to be the rage these days. They look like saffron.

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Cheese and crab rolls. Fried and very satisfying.

Mr. Kobayashi is well-known in the Bay Area to highlight different styles of ramen. At Ramen Dojo he garnered a massive following with his spicy variations of broth, and at Ramen Parlor, the menu is dominated by broth leaning more towards seafood, topped with “Garlic Lobster Oil”. You could imagine my skepticism of this, and I admit I kinda cringed upon first glance of the menu (as this was not what I had traveled to San Mateo for!).

But once the ramen arrived, all preconceived notions and expectations were blown out of the water. The ramen was actually quite good!

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Hideko’s spicy tan tan men. Look at those chopped raw onions! Hooray!

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I took a leap of faith and ordered the “Spicy Kani Miso Ramen with Soft Shelled Crab”. I was pretty anxious about this decision, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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Kuni’s tonkotsu ramen with lobster oil. All good except for the lettuce. What is up with lettuce as garnishes? It drives me crazy!

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My kani-miso ramen broth had very deep ocean flavors.

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Side of egg. Nicely marinated.

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Noodles are springy, not too thin, not too thick.

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Kuni’s carb-on-carb action.

So we were all pretty impressed by the presentation, variations of flavor of each bowl, depth of flavor of the broth, and the springy noodles. And we were able to enjoy the bowl to its last bite, as we never got bored of eating it halfway through. This happens sometimes with overly-inflated ramen — it starts out strong, but as it starts cooling down, it gets really hard to eat. But not Ramen Parlor’s.

For dessert, I needed a refreshing palette cleanser. So daikon salad of course!

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Ramen Parlor only opened about six months ago, and I hope that the quality remains in tact, as they grow into this weird little space on a random suburban corner.

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How is this not so 90s Japanese princess anime???

For the ultimate American Dreamer, there is a big parking lot.

RAMEN PARLOR
901 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401
T: 650.344.9728

5 Comments

  • Posted May 31, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I love that you can find a good ramen place in a suburban corner. The tan tan men looks GOOD.

  • Posted May 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    No pix of your mom????
    Love the family angle.

  • gtrine
    Posted June 3, 2012 at 1:43 am

    That place used to be a Mexican grilled chicken joint. And then a greek restaurant. About time it turned to Japanese! Great review, can’t wait to try it!

  • Kayoko
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Gtrine: Thanks for letting us know the history of this space! A chicken joint and Greek restaurant! Both equally bizarre. I hope ramen does well here.

  • Lillian
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I thought the owner sold Santa then opened up Dojo and Parlor… And yes, Santa isn’t as good as b4 but it’s operating by diff ppl now?

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