Eating ramen doesn’t always have to be a battle of wills, but sometimes, it’s fun to put your palate to the test. That type of challenge is readily available at Ramen Dojo, a one-year-old spicy Japanese ramen house from chef Kazunori Kobayashi in downtown San Mateo, named for a martial arts studio. The owner moved revered Santa Ramen in order to open a new concept, so Silicon Valley locals get double the bowled benefit. This was the second ramen house that Ramen Bull chef and Japan native Nori Sugie recommended in the Silicon Valley, the other being Ramen Halu, so Dojo was a good bet, and the experience delivered on the promise.
Ramen Dojo divides 24 seats between banquettes, a J-shaped counter and tables. A blackboard menu tells most of the story, including available dishes and a detailed account of ingredients.
Potstickers ($2.75) eschewed the typical pan-fried preparation. Instead, a trio of thin-skinned pork and cabbage dumplings, steamed, appeared in savory ponzu sauce with grated radish and parsley. The dumplings missed some of the textural contrast, but these were a nice light starter.
Every ramen at Dojo features a fairly rich pork broth base, fried whole garlic cloves that soak up the broth, crunchy kikurage mushrooms, strips of crisp fresh green chive, a single quail egg and chicken gravy (cooked ground chicken, chopped shitake mushroom, chopped ginger), chile threads, butter lettuce and two great slabs of seared, roast pork. The spaghetti-like noodles were crimped and not made in-house, but still high quality and fairly firm.
My friend Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang ordered his Garlic Pork Flavor ($9.50) extra spicy, leading to a chile pop and peppery finish. It was funny to hear him admit, “I think I might have made a mistake.”
My Soy Sauce Flavor ($9.50) ramen was medium but still spicy, with less chile powder, a higher savory quotient and a similar storm of minced garlic.
Ramen Dojo was significantly better than Orochon, a ramen house in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo that’s also known for its fiery bowls, but seems to be more interested in heat than flavor. Spicy, medium or mild, Dojo would still rate with some of the best ramen houses in L.A. County.
August 24, 2011 at 2:29 PM
well it wasn’t THAT spicy that I couldn’t finish it! but yeah it was pretty intense.
August 24, 2011 at 9:42 AM
Too spicy for Mattatouille the Korean? 😛
The toppings sound interesting, though I’ll be ordering mild myself..
August 24, 2011 at 4:45 PM
Silicon Valley seems to have a lot of unusual ramen houses, with plenty others to explore on future visits. The roasted garlic was a nice touch. So were the quail eggs.