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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ramen Dojo

I made an amateur mistake. If I hadn’t blown out my taste buds ordering what I thought was a typical bowl of medium-spiced ramen, I’d be able to tell in you, in intricate detail, about Ramen Dojo, a get-there-early-because-it-gets-crazy spot in San Mateo.

I’d probably start by telling you about the three pork-based broths you can choose from: soy sauce, pork garlic, and miso. Then about your next decision - the level of heat - which begins with mild-spicy, then goes to regular spicy, and then extra spicy (you can see how I thought I was getting something in the medium-spice range here).

Next, if you wanted to fancy it up, I’d tell you all about their toppings. Their basic ramen comes with roast pork, fried garlic, mushrooms, chives, and a quail egg – but you can add extras like cod roe, kimchee, corn, or more eggs/noodles. The ramen also comes with a subtle, savory chicken “gravy” which is made from ground chicken, shiitakes and ginger.

Normally, I’d consider myself a pro when it comes to ramen. And spice-wise, I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve upgraded my heat tolerance (at least when it comes to salsa, or Korean tofu soup) from mild to medium. But I didn’t take into account that Ramen Dojo’s barometer of spice begins with spicy. My mistake.

But despite all my yammering on about the heat, I still really enjoyed my meal here. They share the same owners as popular Santa Ramen, as well as that same focused mission (and huge crowds). They concentrate on one thing and do it exceptionally well - with great care, authenticity and ingredients.

The broth had a silky richness and satisfying saltiness, the noodles were flavorful, and the toppings rounded out a nice range of crunchy, chewy, meaty textures. My rating is based on comments from my dining companions, including MFM who agreed about the spiciness, C. who appreciated the array of toppings, and D. who ordered the reddest, spiciest bowl of all and didn't even flinch (he's now my aspirational spice role model).

And then I’d probably wrap it up by saying they offer a few appetizers like takoyaki (squid balls) too – oh wait – that was served before I started losing feeling in my lips – so yes, I can confirm that those are indeed delicious. For everything else I’ll just have to go back another time and make sure I order appropriately. And you know, I can’t wait.



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