Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, CA
805 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401
Open Monday and Wednesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner (closes in between 2:00 -5:30 p.m.)
As we continue on our quest to ramen enlightenment, we decided to end our delightful food crawl day with some ramen at Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, CA. We never have any real reason to be in the South Bay, but this time we did! We fly out of SFO to NYC, and I purposefully booked a hotel right next to SFO and San Mateo.
We arrived just a few minutes past after they opened and were really excited to eat, but to our dismay we found ourselves in line with five other patrons ahead of us. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here’s the kicker… the restaurant was already FULL inside, which meant we would have to wait for all of those customers who just sat down to order and eat. What did those customers do? Pitch a tent and wait all night long for a dinner seat at opening time?! Sheesh. Anyway, we knew it was going to be at least a half hour wait. So we put our names down on the list and waited. As we waited, the wait list got longer. Luckily, right after the half hour mark of waiting around, customers started to trickle out of the restaurant.
The place is really small, so it seems easier to dine with just two people than with a group of three or more. It only seemed like there were about five or six tables, with some bar seating. We were seated at the bar, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but space is limited so we kept bumping elbows throughout our slurping. I tried to be mindful of the limited space by tucking my right elbow so that I wouldn’t bump the unknown neighbor.
There are no menus to graze through while you are seated. The only menus are the two large chalkboards located on opposite walls of the restaurant, and the small appetizer menu on the table tops and counters. Like some of the other ramen places we’ve been to, you choose the broth and the level of spiciness, along with any extras you want added to the bowl. I love options. It gives me some of the greatest pleasures in life. We each ordered a regular spicy garlic pork ramen, while I added on extra roasted pork and corn.
Want my opinion on what to order? Well, you probably don’t, but I’m just going to share with you my thoughts…
Forget the soy sauce or soy bean flavored broth. Get the garlic pork flavor broth. Trust me. I mean, have I led you to believe otherwise? The garlic pork flavor broth is money. The latter is their specialty. It’s what sets them apart from the other ramen restaurants around the bay area. If you want the former broths, don’t waste your time in line here and go somewhere else. Oh, and there’s no vegetarian broth options. So this place is definitely not for the vegans, vegetarians, or for those who do not enjoy bovine fare. Not to be mean, and I have no ill feelings to those identified in my previous sentence, but I suggest you find another restaurant that may have more options to cater your needs than this place offers.
Our bowls of ramen were brought out within five minutes of placing our order. The garlicky fragrance emanating from the broth was like no other. It was pure bliss. The presentation of each bowl was also very stunning to gawk at. Each bowl of ramen comes with two pieces of roasted pork, fried garlic cloves, kikurage mushrooms, fresh green chives, one quail egg, and topped with a spoonful of chicken gravy. What is this chicken gravy, you ask? It’s their own concoction of ground chicken mixed and cooked with shiitake mushrooms, chopped ginger, and dried shrimp. It was delicious. The chicken gravy added an extra layer of flavor to the already flavorful bowl of noodles. I noticed our neighbors from the corner of my eyes gazing at our bowls with envy, hoping theirs would be brought out soon. I could just hear the oohs and ahhs from their minds because I was still oohing and ahhing with each slurp of my noodles.
We wasted no time and delved right in. Unfortunately, my first slurp from the soup soon completely caught me by surprise. The peppery kick from the spicy broth had me coughing as it tickled my throat on its way down to my stomach. The next few slurps following the first bite seemed to get spicier and spicier, but the heat began to subside albeit my nose was still runny. I was really happy I didn’t go with the extra spicy broth, which was my initial intention as we were about to order. For some reason, something told me to hold back on the first time. I can’t even imagine what the first bite would have been like if I had ordered it extra spicy. I actually don’t think I would have been able to taste or really enjoy the ramen. This is slightly embarrassing to admit because I can usually handle the heat from anything spicy. I mean, I had kimchee filtering in the umbilical blood from my Mom. That was probably TMI and too much of a gross visual. Sorry. I owe that to my job working in the emergency department. I just wanted to get the point across that that’s how spicy and I go together. Anyhow, I’m getting off topic from ramen.
The ramen noodles itself were cooked perfectly… springy, but chewy. The pork belly was oh em gee goodness. It had the perfect fat to meat ratio. The meat was very tender and flavorful. (I would like the pork by itself with some steamed white rice. Yum.) The corn was the perfect addition because the sweetness of the corn helped balance out the salty and spiciness of the broth. I also wanted to say that the quail egg was a nice departure from the usual chicken egg at other ramen joints, but it was only ONE small quail egg. I’m used to having a large chicken egg floating around my ramen. So what I am trying to say is that I wish it was a chicken egg. The sliced wood ear mushrooms added a nice texture to the overall ramen. And the fried whole garlic cloves. Oh my. The fried whole garlic cloves was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It was pure genius. I think we saved ours until the very end of the bowl once we realized how amazing they were. The garlicky, porky goodness transcended us to ramen enlightenment. Yum. I. Want. Now.
Next time, the only excuse we’ll ever need to venture out to the South Bay is for ramen, and ramen only at Ramen Dojo.
Lastly, I’m noticing a trend with these ramen establishments… put your name on the wait list, wait for about a half hour, order, slurp, pay, and leave. That’s it. There isn’t any dilly dallying around. If you want something like that, go somewhere else. Oh, and if you don’t want to wait, go REALLY early like before they open, or close to closing time.