Celebrate the coming summer days with a…hot bowl of Ramen?
by Alexander Quebec
Ramen has come a long way stateside, or at least in California. Many think of ramen as coming from a packet or a Styrofoam container with a bit of hot water added in. Living in the Bay Area, however, you get exposed to many different cuisines, some as close to authentic as possible, and one can get easily spoiled at the choices and varieties of different kinds of foods they have while living here. ramen is certainly no exception.
I paid a visit to Roots and Rye at Santana Row to check out their new pop up concept, Ramen Provisions. Offering a menu of traditional ramen dishes, as well as a few Japanese small plates, rice bowls and sake to accompany your meal, this new pop up with its flashy red banners written in Japanese stands out from it’s otherwise muted and calm surroundings.
The menu was devised by Roots and Rye’s very own Shingo Katsura, Chef de Cuisine and a native of Japan, whose creations were inspired by his personal experiences growing up in the homeland of the ramen.
I got to sit down and talk to Chef Katsura about ramen. For starters, he told me that ramen is a relatively recent invention. After looking that up, his assessment was correct as the first ramen restaurant on record actually opened in Japan in 1910. While no food historian is 100% certain of it’s origins, ramen noodles are believed to have originated from China. Originally under the name Shina Soba, the food experienced a surge in patriotic popularity among the Japanese, up until the end of World War II, when food shortages ran rampant. It wasn’t until 1958 when Momofuku Ando developed what would later become instant ramen; a few years after, the whole world was in on it when instant ramen hit the market.
For one of the smaller plates, I gave the Chicken Karaage a try. With a thin and crispy skin backed by a juicy and tender chicken meat, this was pretty close to the traditional chicken karaage found in Japan, which is typically coated in potato starch. Shingo’s version stays true to the traditional version, along with marinating the meat for several hours in a marinade that consists of ginger and garlic. To me, garlic and ginger are the divas of the flavor world, and if done incorrectly, they can often fight like one; but the way these two otherwise strong flavors are usually marinated, they didn’t taste like they were competing against each other, but rather taking turns with each bite.
The Tonkatsu Ramen arrived, piping hot and ready to eat. The broth was amazing, a bit fatty and greasy from the slice of chashu, but filled with a rich and meaty goodness without the massive saltiness i’ve come to find from other places. The noodles were firm, but yielded to each bite without much effort. As for the chashu pork itself, a fairly nice piece of chashu which was a bit on the fatty side, but it melted in my mouth right away with each bite.
Overall, I felt that the team pulled off a very good execution of a popular food item here in California. I was told that the concept is brand new, so only time will tell how well this will hold up. I would say that if you’re in the area for lunch, it is most certainly worth a visit.
If you’re at Santana Row on a weekday lunch, check out Ramen Provisions @ Roots & Rye between 11AM to 3PM, Monday through Friday. You may want to visit as soon as possible, as the concept is only going to be available for a limited time.
Have you already given this place a try? let us know your thoughts in the comments below.