Himawari-Tei, Ramen and more

by foodhoe on November 11, 2010

202 2nd Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401-3904  | 650.375.1005‎  | menu

It’s really just a hop, skip and a jump from my place over the 92 bridge for me to get over to San Mateo on the weekends, which is where I go when I have any kind of hankering for Japanese food. Nijiya is my favorite Japanese market, my go to spot when I need sashimi grade fish, fresh wasabi for it or even black Q-tips, but Takahashi is a close second, mainly because I know that many years ago, Mr. Takahashi tried to teach my grandmother how to drive in his stick-shift truck and that it ended up in a ditch.  But I digress…  The South Bay is the place to go for ramen and San Mateo has some especially good options.  I’ve told you about some celebrated noodle temples like Santa Ramen and their offshoot Ramen Dojo, but there’s also Himawari-Tei, which was recommended to me by venerable blogger Chubby Panda many years ago.  I had reason to convene with my fine friends Daisy and P in the area, so Mr. K and I met them for lunch recently at Himawari-Tei.

It seemed bustling at noon but no long lines out the door.  We found Daisy and P already seated in a cozy little booth near the front.  The menu offers a lot more than just a bowl of noodles.  Although we were there for ramen, I was distracted by the selection of sushi rolls, fried rice/rice bowls and many delicious sounding appetizers.  Daisy had already ordered Shu-mai ($5), steamed shrimp dumplings, which had an slightly soggy texture, and came with a ponzu dipping sauce that included a healthy dose of pungent hot mustard (this made up for the soggy texture to me)…

We also shared Agedashi Tofu, ($5) a traditional dish of fried tofu served with dashi, but it was made especially delicious with the toppings of katsuo bushi, (finely shredded dried bonito fish), green onion, grated fresh ginger, grated daikon and sprinkled with shichimi togarashi, a mixture of seven spices and chilis.  This was a fine example of a rather bland substance like tofu being transformed by frying and all the right condiments into a sublime sensory delight.

P said he wasn’t super hungry since they went out for breakfast earlier and just ordered a plate of the famous Buta Kakuni ($5), which is the marinated and slow cooked pork belly that has been deep fried and drizzled with a special sauce.  Mr. K grabbed a piece thinking it was part of our appetizers, which I made him share with me.  Mmmmm, transcendant textures like carnitas but Japanese style…

I ordered a set that included a side of Buta Kakuni pork belly on rice and dont’ remember what the price came out to be… The pork belly was rich and luscious, topped with thin slices of green and purple onion, a bit of pickled ginger and underneath was a scoop of steamed white rice.  Yum, but I admit that I bit off more than I could chew by ordering the combo plate….

Since I had the rich pork belly rice bowl, I opted for the Shio Ramen ($7.50) a clean fresh tasting Okinawan sea salt enhanced broth, topped with green onion, menma (the delectably chewy, crunchy fermented bamboo shoots), and slices of roasted pork.  I was seeking a bowl of ramen served in it’s purist form and felt that was what I received.  I could taste the broth, and gently caressed the noodles.

Mr K had the Miso Ramen ($7.50) miso flavored soup, with regular toppings which includes slices of roasted pork, bamboo shoots and green onion.  He thought the broth was a bit bland, but since we mostly subsist on frozen ramen noodles at home, the thin curly noodles had a much bouncier texture than what we’re used to. 

Daisy was very happy with her Hiyashi Chu – Ka ($7.50), a plate of cold noodles topped with an assortment of fresh vegetable, seaweed and slices of roasted pork

She did not get hot mustard or vinegar, which are my favorite condiments for this dish, although you can see strands of the brilliant red beni-shoga pickled ginger.  It was a very flavorful and refreshing dish.

One of the condiments at every table is Fried garlic, along with a shaker of the spicy Shichimi Togarashi.

We liked the ramen options available along with the other items on the menu, although Mr. K and I agreed that the ramen was not on the same level as Santouka in San Jose.  The traditional broth was restrained in comparison to the heady intoxicating versions served at Santa Ramen or the over-the-top spicy brew at the Dojo, but sometimes it’s the simple flavors that I crave.

Himawari-Tei on Urbanspoon

Afterwards we stopped off at Sweet Breams, which specializes in a Japanese delicacy called chibi taiyaki.  I walked in, camera in hand, wanting to be entranced by the cuteness of everything, but an Asian woman with purple hair glared at me and declared contemptuously that they Do Not Allow Photographs to be Taken.  Abashed, I put my camera away and stood there awkwardly while Daisy purchased a school of the tiny little pastries.  The purple haired wench wouldn’t look at us and gave the very strong impression that she wanted us to leave.  Ok then, Mr. K and I walked out… I’m certainly not one for subsidizing rudeness.

Later at Daisy’s urging I sampled one of the cute but absurdly small fish. It was adorable, but so tiny that the proportions were off, it was the merest suggestion of what the experience of eating a taiyaki should be.   It was small and miserly like a purple haired vixen’s heart.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa November 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Nice food! Those cold noodles look good.

Cheers,

Rosa

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liz November 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm

That pork bowl looks simply delish!

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Single Guy Ben November 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Wow, fun to visit a ramen place with a lot of other options so you can bring friends who don’t just want ramen. Although I’m sure I’d want to just get ramen. And why is it that a lot of Japanese-related stores are so against photographs when Japan produces so many cameras? I just don’t get it.

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Chubbypanda November 11, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Awww… Thanks for the shout-out! 🙂

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Kirk November 12, 2010 at 10:56 am

Hi FH – That ramen looks like just the thing for the recent weather here.

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April Jones November 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Okay now I am hungry. The Hiyashi Chu – Ka looks very good. I think I now need to find a similar restaurant.

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grace November 16, 2010 at 12:40 am

small and miserly like a purple-haired vixen’s heart? and i laugh. out loud. 🙂

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Bonnibella November 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I think at Breams they are afraid people will steal their cooking techniques but it does put a damper on the mood, I totally understand.

Ramen wise, I like the new option in San Mateo and that the broth are more basic and pure rather than being over complicated.

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Gastronomer November 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Never trust a dame with purple hair 😉

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foodhoe November 17, 2010 at 9:50 am

Rosa, the chuka ramen is on the list of must try dishes!
Liz, I admit I porked out on that and wasn’t able to give my ramen proper regard
Single guy, you know I’m with you on the no fotos thing… it makes no sense at all – it’s free advertising
chubbypanda, I kept it on the list all these years, so worth it
Kirk, yes now I have a spot I can go to for ramen that’s good for either hot or cold weather
April, we all need our go-to ramen shop
Grace 🙂
Bonnibella, good point!
Gastronomer, my sentiments exactly

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piggyeatalot July 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

Hi Food-Hoe

I am going to San Francsico in the next few months and I was hoping you could let me know where I could find the best ramen in San Francsico- is this the best ramen place or do you reckon the other ramen places you mentioned are better? 🙂

Thanks so much! I am from Australia and this is my first time to San Francsico since I was 5 so I am super excited!

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foodhoe July 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

Hi piggy! I haven’t personally been to many of the ramen places in the city of SF, but there are some very good spots in the surrounding area. Some very good spots are in San Mateo, Santa Ramen, Ramen Dojo, and then there are Santouka Ramen and Halu Ramen in San Jose, my friend Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat has some posts about ramen he has eaten in SF posted here.

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