Katana-Ya in San Francisco’s Union Square/Tenderloin


430 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 771-1280

Open daily for lunch and dinner (closes at 1:00 a.m.)

I had been Internet stalking reviews of Katana-Ya for months now.  I first discovered this restaurant off San Francisco’s “7×7 Magazine: 100 Things to Try Before You Die” list, as well as a few other foodie blogs.  I love soup noodles, as you may have noticed from my “Ode to Ramen” poem, so I was elated when I came across a new ramen place to try.

We arrived at the restaurant at around 1:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon only to find ourselves amongst others also waiting to have ramen.  We put our name down, and realized we were fifth in line for a table.  Not good as we were both starving, hypoglycemic, and cranky.  Luckily, the weather was beautiful in SF that weekend.  In fact, it was a little too warm while we waited patiently for our table.  We reminded ourselves through this waiting process that ramen from Katana-Ya was well worth it.  However, if it were rainy and windy, well, let’s just say that I don’t know if we would have toughed it out.  We probably would have gone somewhere else with an actual indoor waiting area.  But I digress.

After 30 minutes of waiting, we were led to our small table and small chairs.  The restaurant is small, so seating is limited.  From what we experienced and what I have read from previous reviews, there always seems to be a wait for a table.  So patience isa virtue here.  We did note that it seemed best to dine without waiting after 1:30 p.m.  Basically, if you can, go during the before or after lunch or dinner crowd to avoid the lines. There is also a bar area where you have the option to dine at.  Lastly, you are very up close and personal with your neighbor diners, which I always find somewhat awkward.  Our neighbor diners were talking so loud that it was hard not to eavesdrop, like the douche bags from Los Angeles name dropping Jude Jaw and a few other celebrities.  Again, I digress.

The menu.  I loved the menu and its many options it had to offer.  The ramen soup noodle section of the menu was brilliant.  You choose which kind of topping you want on your ramen, and then you get to decide if you want a shoyu, salty, or miso broth.  From there, you also get to decide if you want it mild, spicy, or extra spicy.  So it’s almost a create-your-own-ramen atmosphere.  I like variety.  I don’t like being tied down to one type.  The other section of the menu was also just as brilliant as the ramen section, as you can get combinations of ramen plus some type of don or fried rice.  What really stood out to me was the combination ramen plus uni don.  Yum.  Unfortunately, my eyes were bigger than my stomach at that point so I opted not to get it.  Oh the regrets.

The ramen arrived at our table no longer than after 5 minutes of placing our order.  It came in a medium-sized bowl, however, don’t let the size of the bowl fool you.  There was the perfect amount of noodles to soup to stuff ratio.  There was four thick slices of chashu laid on top of the noodles while sitting in a spicy red broth.  I delved right into the noodles as it was set down on our table.  I was too hungry to enjoy the aromas of the bowl.  First, the slurp of the broth.  OMFG, it was the most amazing broth ever.  The broth was perfectly balanced, while not overly salty like some ramen broths can be.  Now, one might think that I enjoyed this so much because I was really hungry.  But not so.  It really was just that yummy.  It left a bit of a spicy note after each slurp, but not overwhelmingly spicy.  In fact, I actually wish I got the extra spicy broth.  Oh well.  Next time.  The noodles were cooked to perfection.  It had just the right amount of give as you bit into the noodle.  The chashu was tender and flavorful.  Not bland or tough like some reviewers have claimed.

The Katana-Ya ramen was FABULOUS.  It was better than my already amazing chashu ramen.  The Katana-Ya ramen is their combination ramen for those who are indecisive about which ramen to order.  It comes with corn, fried chicken, fried gyoza, seaweed, scallion, chashu, and a boiled egg.  We also ordered this with the spicy miso broth.  The fried chicken and gyoza was a brilliant addition as it added another layer to the already complex, flavorful broth.  I actually wish I had ordered this ramen instead of mine since you get just about everything.  Again, it’ll have to wait until next time!  I hear the other ramens are just as yummy, but knowing me, I will probably end up with the Katana-Ya ramen each and every time 🙂

Service was a bit hurried, but it was understandable considering how busy it was.  However, with that being said, the service was friendly.  They were quick to refill our half empty glasses of water.  And they brought our bill out in a timely fashion.

Unfortunately, the only negative thing that I can say about this place is the MSG-ladened broth.  Yes.  MSG.  I still don’t understand why people nowadays use MSG in their cooking.  It was the one real reason why we actually considered not ever eating at Katana-Ya.  But we caved.  And we’re glad we did.  But we were definitely paying for it afterwards when we were parched despite drinking glasses and glasses of water.  We also paid for it the next morning when we were nicely bloated.  Will this stop us from eating at Katana-Ya again and again?  Nope.

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