Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oidon : San Mateo

Naruto I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I was a ramen noodle virgin up until this summer.

Yes, I've eaten udon and soba noodles numberous times and a plenitude of Chinese noodle soups that probably have a lot of similarities. Yes, my pops has passed on numerous Hong Kong style ways to make the instant Ramen packets an actual meal. And yes, I've even been exposed to Japanese media like Naruto and the utterly inane movie, Tampopo, where ramen noodle shops play central roles.

But I've never had ramen noodles at an actual Japanese restaurant. (Sorry, I don't count Momofuku)

Apparently, besides going to Japan, the Bay area is a fine place to remedy this problem. That someone took the time to rank nearly 50 ramen places completely blows my mind. (Eat.tanspace also is a big ramen fan as well.)

I guess I say all this as a disclaimer of my thoughts on Oidon. Apparently, Oidon isn't even a true ramen shop and isn't quite as favored on Yelp and Chowhound, but hell I thought this was quite the solid meal and on some levels better than my later two experiences at the much praised Santa Ramen. I also liked Oidon's cozy, hidden away, 2nd floor interior as well.

Agedashi Tofu - Deep fried tofu - Very nicely done, piping hot when it came out with a tasty and very light soy based sauce. Those are dried seaweed flecks and scallions on top.

Soba noodles in soy sauce broth - The more straight-forward of our noodle bowls. The soba noodles were good quality. Compared to the inconsistently size noodles and more grainy texture of say the hand-drawn noodles at the Nanzhou Hand-drawn Noodle Shop in Philadelphia, I couldn't quite tell whether these were home-made or just fairly decent quality shipped noodles.

Tonkotsu Ramen - According to the Wikipedia entry on Ramen, "tonkatsu (Pork bone) ramen has usually a cloudy white colored broth. It is similar to the Chinese baitang (白湯) and is a thick broth made by boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for hours on end, suffusing the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy (depending on the shop). Most shops, but not all, blend this pork broth with a small amount of chicken and vegetable stock and/or soy sauce."

I rather liked this. The broth had the savoriness of a soy sauce based broth, yet a buttery/creamy consistency that was just plain crack-addictive and the umami taste of slow cooking meat and bones. I must admit that I paused a half second looking at the half-inch layer of fatty oil sitting on top of the broth, but once tasting the broth, I didn't look back. I can't quite judge the noodle themselves, as I couldn't quite get past the fact that they tasted like Instant ramen noodles would if they were fresh and prior to deep-frying them. The pork strips were nice and tender and also a bit fatty. (And if you were curious, the red strips in the middle of the bowl are something called Beni shoga, pickled strips of ginger.)

Overall, I rather enjoyed myself here and if I were to visit SF again, Oidon might make it on a list of favorites to check out once again.

71 E. 4th Avenue San Mateo, CA 94401 (map)
(It's right above a small grocery store)
(650) 342-6748
Yelp | Chowhound
($Japanese, $Recommended, $San Mateo)

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