Thursday, July 21, 2005

ryowa (formerly kobe), berkeley

i really wanted to love this place, i really did. when i used to go to the mountain view branch when they first opened i did, i really did like it a lot. sigh. tv blaring japanese variety shows, selection of newspapers and comic type books to browse, great big bowls of free kimchee, endless supplies of barley tea, house-made ramen noodles....what was not to like?

and the berkeley branch has all of the same elements, except for the kimchee that was, during my visit, made of what looked to be prarie grass (probably chives) and not cabbage. it reminded me of the stuff my cat eats just before he throws up.

i ordered the vegetarian ramen (6.50), which was, as you can see, big. it came with a little carrot, wakame seaweed, spinach, daikon sprouts, seasoned shitake mushrooms and a bit of toasted nori. the broth was interesting. a little sweet and quite nutty. neither like the clear fish/pork/seaweed stock broths i'm accustomed to, nor like a miso broth. it tasted peanut-ty but probably was sesame based. it was good, not great. the noodles themselves came out undercooked. they were a little too chewy but maybe this was intentional because by the time i got 1/4 of the way into my meal they had softened up to just about the perfect firmnes. this was the good.

and this was the bad.

a bowl of chilled noodle ($8.50!!!), available only in the summertime. it was awful. the noodles were undercooked. the sauce had no real flavor or zing to it. it was topped with pickled ginger, a little cucumber, some canned corn, and some hard chewy pickled strips (dried pickled daikon? i have no idea). the only predominant flavor was that of pickles and canned corn. it tasted bland at the very best, pickled and canned at the worst. oh, and it came with 1/2 of a hard boiled egg with a pale yellow yolk sporting a green halo.

the place, at lunchtime, was filled with japanese people, most of whom seemed to be ordering the lunch sets which included a choice of ryowa ramen/soy sauce ramen/soybeans ramen/butter corn ramen, all accompanied by 3 pieces of gyoza and either steamed rice (7.00) or for .50 cents more, fried rice. this seems like a pretty good deal and maybe the one to go with.

although i did not sample them, the gyoza did look good....perfectly browned and crisp looking little fat pockets of stuffed dough. and they have a vegetarian version on the menu for 3.50.

the verdict? at all costs avoid the cold noodle dish, oreder yourself a lunch special and kick back and watch a little japanese variety show programming.

other people seem to love this place. to check out their rave reviews, click here and here and here .

ryowa ramen
2068 university avenue (near shattuck)
berkeley, ca


Blogger Laura said...

I unfortunately had never noticed it before (and walked past it for years) but it was cold & raining out and I looked at the menu in the window, the place was packed, so I thought if there was an empty spot, I'd try it.
OUTSTANDING!! Best noodles and ramen I've ever had. Just delicious! Very generous with the pork slab. YUMMY!

6:06 PM  

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