Some time ago, Mr. K and I drove with my friend Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat, to meet Edda who writes A Housewife’s Tale, with the ambitious intent to try several different restaurants because there are really too many options to decide on in San Mateo. I live in the East Bay and can’t get over how many great restaurants are just on the other side of the San Mateo bridge. Edda came up with an excellent eating agenda which began at Ramen Parlor, an oddly colonial appearing restaurant with its own little parking lot as well as street parking.
Ramen Parlor is the latest noodle shop from chef-owner Kazunori Kobayashi, whose ramen empire includes the venerable Santa Ramen, which features more traditional ramen styles (soy sauce, miso, and tonkotsu), and Ramen Dojo, which specializes in “stamina ramen” (it’s supposed to increase your energy), and now Ramen Parlor, a seafood-focused restaurant located a couple of blocks from the Dojo. Both Santa and Ramen Dojo are very popular and crowded, and eating there usually involves a long wait in line. The dining room of Ramen Parlor is brightly lit and cozy, although larger than the Dojo and both of my visits I was pleasantly surprised with the speed of getting seated.
All ramen is available non-spicy, mild spicy, regular spicy, and extra spicy, and it seemed to me that the plain soy or miso had the richness of a pork broth base. You can pair standard broths ($9.50, choice of soy sauce, miso, or tonkotsu) with a luxurious drizzle of lobster oil, or you can add garlic which creates flavorful complex broths. Each bowl comes with two slices of pork belly chasu, green chives, kikurage, and is accented with crushed spicy powder (probably shichimi togarashi), even if you order it non-spicy.
Edda, Mr. K and I decided to split two bowls and tried the Lobster Pork Flavor with kikurage mushrooms which is prized for its slippery but slightly crunchy texture. We loved the richly flavored broth topped with with half of a fried soft shell crab (crisp and filled with sweet tender flesh), 2 slices of roasted pork, mizuna (aka Japanese mustard/California peppergrass), and two pieces of roasted seaweed .
This is the Miso Ramen, which came with corn, which adds a sweet note to the salty rich broth, it also included half of a cooked egg that had a nice gooey golden yolk and the noodles in all the dishes were firm and springy and crinkly.
Besides ramen, they offer a wider selection of appetizers including yakitori ($1.95-$3.25 per stick), a few salads, fried items (karaage!), and plates of sliced meats. We ordered pork belly just because Edda said we had to, so we did… It practically melted in our mouths
Ben ordered the Crab Spicy Miso Ramen ($9.95), which had a vivid red hue that was accented by a pile of shredded fresh crab meat (you can barely see it under the fried softshell crab)on top of a slice of fatty roast pork and topped with pungent chives. It seemed pretty spicy to me, but he said it was just right – you can read his post about the evening here.
Update: Mr. K and I went there a couple of weeks ago to refresh our tastebuds and while there was a line out the door, the experience was very organized. We put ourselves on the sign up sheet and then were handed menus and placed our orders while we stood in line for about 5 minutes. It was a little weird to sit at the table and just wait for our food (no menu perusal as we had already ordered), which arrived at the table soon afterwards.
Lunch Tue-Sun 11:30 am – 2 pm; Dinner Tue-Sun 5:30 pm – 9 pm
901 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401 | 650.344.9728 | facebook
We wound our way through some pretty thick traffic which was slowed by all the pedestrian crosswalks, over to our next stop, Izakaya Mai.
The interior is bustling, jam packed with signs, planes dangle overhead and there was even a tiny choo choo train going around on tracks along the perimeter of the ceiling. There was a private screened tatami room in the front, and a little sushi bar on the side, a couple of booths and tables crowd the cozy intimate dining room. Here is a link to their extensive menu, which offers sushi/sashimi, domburi/curry rice, Noodles (Ramen, Chanpon, Udon, Soba), grilled plates, fried plates, and a dizzying array of delectable appetizers you find at a sushi bar.
Mmmm, I always order Yamakake when I see it on the menu, although it is an acquired taste sensation. It is grated raw mountain yam (tororo) topped with a raw quail egg served over tuna sashimi, along with the requisite accompaniments of shiso leaf, dab of wasabi and topped with toasted strips of nori (seaweed). I love it drizzled with soy sauce and mixed up. The mountain yam is very starchy and has a slippery, slimy texture that is an excellent vehicle mixed with the egg and absorbs the flavors from the soy and wasabi. Sigh, no one else shared my enthusiasm so I got to enjoy this all to myself…
The Hamachi Sashimi was clean and fresh tasting, the Ankimo (monkfish liver) on the bottom right was dense and creamy and swimming in a delectable dashi broth and my special order of Yamakake in the lower left, which you now know about in great detail.
Thin slices of Beef Tongue (Gyu Tan) were a little rubbery
Everyone loved the cool creamy Uni Sashimi, it was stunning served on ice in a cocktail glass, if we weren’t already full, we would have had to order another…
The Fried Shishito Peppers were not salted and were much improved when drizzled with some soy sauce. The Fried Squid (Ika Geso) were chewy and I loved how the pointy ends were crunchy.
212 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401 | 650.347.2511 | website
Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30 am – 2 pm; Dinner Tue-Sun 6 pm – 12 am
Our last stop was Dessert Republic, which specializes in traditional Hong Kong style desserts.
The cafe is super cute and located down a side alley, off the beaten track. Inside it feels like you are sitting at a cafe in a Hong Kong alley.
Each table was graced with a super cool device where you could press a button to specify a request for water, milk, to order or some other service.
Ben had the Black Sesame gloopy stuff over soft tofu ($5.29), the flavors were very muted, I could barely discern the nutty flavor of ground sesame.
Edda shared her Red Bean Paste over sweet tofu ($5.29) with me.
We shared the Stars of Milky Way ($6.25) delicately battered mochi balls filled with black sesame paste and drizzled with chocolate. I liked these the best of the bunch.
I must have been suffering from tastebud overload, because I just found the desserts to be not as sweet as I would have liked. It was a fun eating adventure and really opened my eyes to the variety of eating tableaus to explore in San Mateo. Sorry for so many super epic long posts recently, I am going to try to publish more often with less content….