Ramen


In the New York Times, Matt Gross has published a delightful article about the ramen shops of Tokyo.

Mitsuwa Marketplace is a very large Japanese grocery, with five locations across the USA, and so well stocked that my mother-in-law’s friends in New York City know of the place. This grocery is pretty close to where Cupertino and San Jose meet, so much so that when I asked where it was, my brother-in-law said Cupertino. We stopped, in part because my brother-in-law was lusting to shop there, in part to just check the place out.

There are two restaurants, one bakery and a small shop that sells Japanese pickles inside the store. Compared to the setup of a Korean superstore, the produce and meat sections are relatively small. What the meat section does focus on is highly graded beef. The overwhelming majority of the meat offered is prime or Wagyu beef ( Wagyu most often in the form of American Kobe). The lowest grade I could find offered was “certified Angus“, which minimally is better choice or prime. A considerable portion of the meat was already cut for use as shabu-shabu.

Certified Angus or better, Mitsuwa largely sells very high grade beef.

The restaurants were Ramen shops. As is almost universal in the Bay area, the prices were much cheaper than anything Japanese in Atlanta and they all had display cases to advertise their food. From reading various newspaper articles posted in Mitsuwa bulletin boards, the food was pretty well received in the area.

They had alcohols the like of which I had never seen before, some distilled from fermented buckwheat, others from other grains. A couple minutes in Mitsuwa will dispell any notion that Japanese alcohols begin with beer and end with sake.  There are prepared foods, whole bento for those on the go and the bakery, nice as it was, was stripped during the Thanksgiving holidays.

In terms of size, as large as this store was, it could have fit entirely in the produce section of one of the larger Korean marts in Atlanta. The use of space in this store is very efficient, not wasted. The majority of space is reserved for items not requiring refrigeration.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
675 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129-2052
(408) 255-6699

Kumako Ramen is a small neat eatery in San Jose’s Japantown, and after the drive from San Francisco to San Jose one day, my brother-in-law recommended we try this place. It’s a spare simple eatery with a straightforward menu and few frills.

We ate there. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law had shoyu ramen, my wife had miso ramen, and I had a spicy alternative called tan-tan ramen.  My brother-in-law had the clam ramen, which had clams but had a heavy Italian component to the ramen he ate. We also had edamame and gyoza as appetizers. The gyoza were nicely grilled and especially good.

Shoyu ramen

Miso ramen

Miso ramen

Tan-tan ramen

I liked the tan-tan ramen, the peppers and the ground pork added to the mix, the nicely regulated heat. There is very little staff in Kumako, just a waitress and two guys behind the counter but it works well, runs well, and I was grateful to be able to try this place.

Verdict: Inexpensive and good, this plate is a terrific little noodle house. Highly recommended.

Kumako Ramen
211 Jackson St
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 286-2111

Kumako on Urbanspoon

Umaido is a restaurant with some buzz and I expect the buzz to only get hotter in the coming weeks. First blogged by Gene Lee and then followed on shortly by Chloe Morris, the story of this ramen shop has been told and told well on those blogs. Now, there are places in town that serve ramen, and do it well. Haru Ichiban comes to mind. But I don’t recall seeing anything at Haru that looked like the pork ramen product on Gene’s or Chloe’s blog, and after mentioning this shop to my wife, she was very interested in trying this place.

We came on a weekend after having a heavy lunch, and were planning on having something lighter for dinner. Umaido is just off the Lawrenceville-Suwanee exit of I-85N, to the east, in a strip mall full of interesting Korean eateries, and just a little before Super H Mart. It’s near a Cafe Mozart, which might be easier to spot on first glance than Umaido itself.

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Inside, the long grey concrete walls and totally unclad roof make me feel as if Umaido is industrial, designed by Beethoven, as the theme is as subtle as the intro to the Fifth Symphony.  Otherwise the eatery is thin, with one long table in the middle surrounded by bar stools, and smaller tables otherwise set against the bare grey walls. The place where the ramen is cooked is open to view, prompting Chloe’s comment that the cooking is well worth the watch.

Staff is dressed in black, and they have headbands with .. not sure if it was red kanji or a rising sun motif. Service was plentiful and good. Almost everyone in the restaurant at the time was Asian, or part Asian. The table was stocked with plenty of extras.

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In the metal jars, there were thin red pickles and garlic. In the 2 liter container was tea. Soon we ordered, and so we ordered the gyoza (dumplings), the chasyu rice bowl, and three ramen soups, two miso and one spicy. We ordered drinks as well. Since they didn’t have any diet drinks, I ordered green tea:

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The gyoza arrived first (sorry no photos; they were eaten too quickly), but they were obviously grilled and plenty good. The rice bowl came with it, and no, it didn’t survive the end of the meal either. The meaty squares are pork, tasting of marinade, ginger and other spicy influences.

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Soon after the ramen came.

miso ramen.

miso ramen.

spicy ramen.

spicy ramen.

Both kinds were good. My wife didn’t eat the egg (perhaps shocked at the color) but nothing else survived the carnivorous side of the family. My daughter pretty much ate everything, and as they were offering free extra noodles, I added those to my broth and took care of those as well. The egg was actually mild, and nothing to shock anyone who ever ate an egg sunny side up.

By the end, everyone left happy, full, and pleased. My wife was talking about how this place is going to collect a huge lunch crowd and I hope so. It would be a nice plus for Suwanee and Greater Atlanta for this eatery to become a huge success.

Verdict: Good, tasty, inexpensive, worth a drive. Very Highly Recommended.

Umaido
2790 Lawrenceville Suwanee Rd
Suwanee, GA 30024
(678) 318-8568

Umaido on Urbanspoon

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