Saiwaii Ramen – San Francisco

Sawaii Ramen Tonkatsu

Rated: ♣♣♣

Ramen joints are anywhere and everywhere these days like here, here, here and here. It’s just one of those comfort foods that you can’t get enough of.  While itching for some ramen one evening, I went with a friend to try Saiwaii Ramen, which took over the old SO’s location on Irving. I was moderately impressed with the restaurant, and would definitely come back if I wanted some quick ramen for dinner.

Unlike the very popular Izakaya Sozai, we were seated almost immediately. They had some interesting ramen choices on their menu like the Spicy Garlic Tonkatsu Ramen and the Special Ramen with Chicken Kara-age AND pigs feet. I decided to be adventurous (kidding) and try the Tonkatsu Ramen. And then I experienced something that I never thought would happen… I had way too many noodles! The ratio of noodles and broth was completely off. Though I was excited at my ginormous portion, I didn’t have enough broth to go with each bite. The ramen had the usual fixings – bamboo shoots, spinach, seaweed, char-siu, and wood ear fungus. The ramen was fairly plain and basic. You can order additional toppings such as pork belly, egg, corn – each at a price. The broth was creamy and flavorful, but I’d say it’s lighter than other ramen places. Noticeably absent from their assortment of condiments was grated garlic. Too bad because I love adding that stuff into my ramen.

I wouldn’t say Saiwaii had the best ramen I’ve ever had. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. I think it’s sufficient to settle a ramen craving. The broth is flavorful, noodles are at a good consistency and portions are large. At $7.95 a bowl, I was stuffed without having to order any side dishes. If you’re in the mood for ramen and can’t get into Izakaya Sozai (also on Irving), try this place out.

Saiwaii Ramen
2240 Irving
(between 23rd Ave & 24th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset

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Sushi Raw – San Francisco

Sushi Raw Rock n Roll

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

I don’t eat sushi much because it’s hard for me to find real quality fish in the Bay Area. I know that sounds ridiculous because I live in a major city and by the ocean, but snobby as it sounds, nothing seems to compare to the fresh tuna I experienced at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan (read about my trip here). I was skeptical when I came with my family to Sushi Raw. For one, the location of this restaurant seemed to be forever cursed. I’ve seen 5 or 6 restaurants come and go at this location on the corner of 19th and Taraval. But after dining here, I have a good feeling this one will make it.

Like any other quality sushi joint, prices aren’t that cheap. Be prepared to spend about $20 per person if you’re planning to munch on some rolls. Also, I believe this place is a Chinese-owned Japanese restaurant. That aside, the food is still good.

We started off with the Agedashi Tofu. Perfectly crispy on the outside and silky smooth on the inside. The best part is that the portion is huge!

Sushi Raw Agedashi Tofu

For sushi, I ordered the Rock n’ Roll, Rainbow Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll and a Hamachi Belly Nigiri. All were amazingly good. The Hamachi Belly was a special for the day as it was just caught and flown into town that very day. You only get two little pieces with each order, but it was worth it. The Spicy Tuna Roll was also a favorite of mine. The roll was packed with little cubes of fresh tuna and hot spicy mayo. Yum!

Sushi Raw Rainbow Roll Spicy Tuna

Sushi Raw has 3 locations in San Francisco in the Mission, on Haight and on Taraval.

Sushi Raw
901 Taraval St
(between 19th Ave & 20th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94116
Neighborhood: Parkside

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Orenchi Ramen – Santa Clara

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been on a ramen hiatus for a while, but my love for the soupy noodle dish was resuscitated after dining at the famed Orenchi Ramen. I’ve devoured a lot of ramen around the Bay Area (like here, here, here, here, and here), and I must say that Orenchi is pretty high on the list.

Between 4 people, we shared 2 appetizers: the pork belly and fried garlic. The braised pork belly was soooo sinful. Slowly cooked and perfectly tender. My advice: do not cut off the fat. The fat in the pork belly gives it a distinct flavor. It’s more robust, and somewhat nutty. Believe it or not, the fried garlic was BETTER than the pork belly. Orenchi takes the entire bulb and deep fries it in hot oil until the cloves become soft and creamy. They serve the bulb with a side of dipping sauce (almost like a thousand island). When garlic is fried, it looses its spicy garlicky taste. The flavor becomes much more subtle. You don’t even realize how garlicky it really is until you smell yourself the next morning. Gross… but completely worth it! :)

Orenchi Pork Belly

Orenchi Fried Garlic

I ordered Orenchi Ramen with a tonkotsu soup base. Drumroll please! Dudududuudud… it’s delicious! I ordered with less fat and less salt for peace of mind, but the broth was still very thick and rich. They pour in some special black oil to top off the dish. Not sure what it is, maybe toasted sesame oil? The toppings in the ramen are definitely far superior compared to other ramen places. There was a slice of that delicious pork belly again. The best part is the soft boiled egg. Orenchi has perfected the soft boiled egg. All of ours were perfectly runny and gooey in the middle. The thick and creamy yolk was liquid gold. If only I had a bigger stomach to eat more!

Orenchi Tonkotsu Ramen

If I were to rate the ramen restaurants in the Bay Area, it would look something like this:

1. Orenchi (tonkotsu broth) at Orenchi Ramen, Santa Clara
2. Miso Ramen at Ramen Halu, San Jose
3. Karage Ramen at Katana-ya, San Francisco
4. Karage Ramen at Santa Ramen, San Mateo
5. Deluxe Miso Ramen at Himawari, San Mateo
6. Karage Ramen at Halu Ramen, San Francisco
7. Tofu and Vegetable Curry at Muracci’s Japanese Curry and Grill, San Francisco

But, my all time favorite ramen would be the Koterri Ramen (chicken collagen soup base) at Tenkaippin in Honolulu, HI. It’s the most unique ramen experience I’ve ever had (sticks to your ribs kind of ramen) and I can’t wait to go back to Hawaii to eat more.

Orenchi Ramen
3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051

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SF Cherry Blossom Festival – April 16-17

Cherry Blossom Festival Music

4 words – deep. fried. mochi. balls. That’s reason enough to come to the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival. Every year, the Japanese celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms (or the coming of spring). The 2 weekend affair is filled with great food, local music and a festive parade.

Cherry Blossom Festival Grill Ribs

Cherry Blossom Festival Kabli Ribs

Ever since I was very young, I would volunteer with my basketball team selling hot dogs and lemonade. The festivals concessions have since evolved to serving Japanese classics such as okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes), takoyaki (squid balls), dorayaki (red bean pancakes), kalbi ribs and udon. The food stands are so popular, I waited almost an hour for a plate of $6 kalbi ribs. Though it was completely worth it in my opinion.

Cherry Blossom Festival Fried Mochi

My all time favorite will always be the deep fried mochi balls. Little gumball sized mochi are deep fried until their crispy and chewy on the outside and soft and gooey in the inside. The mochi are topped with a thick sweet soy sauce and nori (seaweed) flakes. The salty-sweet with the warm-chewy make for a perfect combination.

I encourage you to make an effort to come this weekend! Most stands are fundraising for a tsunami relief fund. So while you’re enjoying some tasty treats, you’re also helping others. Win-win!


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Hamano Sushi – San Francisco

Hamano Sushi Combo

Rated: ♣

Blegh! I will never use Urban Spoon again because it recommended this restaurant. Food wasn’t fresh, service was bad, and dishes were dirty! Is it really that bad? Well, I found some food particles in my cup of water and I asked the waitress to get me a new cup (nicely). Instead of doing so right away, the waitress picked up the cup and inspected the glass of water! It was as if she didn’t believe me!

Well, nothing really stood out on the menu, so K and I got the sushi combos. It came with a salad which was probably the worst Japanese salad I’ve ever had. All other Japanese salads are light and refreshing with a sweet miso dressing. This one left a powder residue in my mouth like it was an old, just-add-water type of dressing.

Hamano Sushi Salad

I had the spicy tuna and the California roll. I can’t eat wasabi, so I checked with the waitress to see if they used wasabi in their spicy tuna. She said “no,” but when I took my first bite, all I could taste was wasabi! I couldn’t eat it after that, so I made K eat it for me while I ate his eel roll.

Hamano Sushi Combo 2

The empty restaurant should’ve been a sign, but I stepped in anyway. I recommend Sushi Sam in San Mateo or Sushi Zone in the Castro if you want some fresh sushi.

Hamano Sushi
1332 Castro St
(between 24th St & Jersey St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Noe Valley

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