I was supposed to share this ramen experience a month ago but I had a bad cold and forgot about it. To be honest, I had a bad cold because of waiting outside Mensho Tokyo Ramen shop for exactly 1 hour 5 minutes when San Francisco’s temperature was in the 50Fs. You will think “Oh, it’s normal in San Francisco”. Yes, it will be normal if you have enough layers and you walk, not stand still in one spot for very long time. I had one jacket and a shirt because I did not think I had to wait that long to have one bowl ramen. Trust me when I say it was cold because I’ve been living in San Francisco for 4 years, physically my body is familiar with the weather here so well. Anyway, this post is not about weather forecast, it is about ramen; so let’s jump right in!
I know about Mensho Tokyo because my close friend lived in an apartment across the shop. I also used to live one block away from the shop so I know the area well enough. I was curious because my friend said we should try it. Finally, my husband and I had a chance to try it on a Saturday night. We were there at 5:30PM before their usual open time. On Saturday, they open at 6pm. And guess what, it was already about 30 people in the line. Some of them already had the menu on their hands and started picking their dishes! The ramen shop opened a year ago and that moment I was really excited because seeing a long line means the food quality is absolutely great. We got in line and wait. 6PM, the shop opened. I saw smiles and excitement on people’s faces. There was a guy walked by us and asked me “Why do you guys wait in line for ramen? Is there anything special about this ramen shop?” I was like: “This is my first time trying this ramen shop so I don’t know how they taste”. There are also some tourists who checked out Yelp and waiting in line. 45 minutes later, I felt hungry enough to eat the whole chicken. My husband had to distract me by showing me the menu Yelp reviews. Most of complains on Yelp is (of course) about waiting too long but everyone said the ramen is good. So those reviews helped me staying in line patiently. Finally, we could get in and had our seats. I literally thought I was eating ramen in a cooking classroom or simply a classroom. We sat on high bar chair with biggest soup spoon I’ve ever seen in my life. Everything is clean and tidy. The moment I sat down to the chair I was completely tired, cold and hungry.
We ordered Enoki Chips for appetizer (fried enoki mushroom). Main dishes: Tori Paitan ramen, a draft beer for my husband and I got Shio Ramen and plum sake glass. During waiting time, I notice I should always try the classic dishes firstly because if they are good, I’ll try other fantasy “creation” dishes later. I mean, if any restaurants cannot make basic dishes good, I will be concerned to order other dishes.
The Enoki chips are brilliant! I never taste any fried mushroom chips like that before. Amazingly, enoki mushrooms chips are crispy, not chewy at all. It has sweet and a tiny bit salty flavor. We finished it so quick and I almost order a second plate if my husband didn’t stop me.
My plum sake was fantastic. I love Japanese sake in general but I never taste anything like that. I wanted to ask the waitress brand name so I can buy a bottle for myself but finally I forgot. It looked like lighter golden whiskey color, smells like floral plum (?) and tiny bit sweet. If you drink the second glass, you might be tipsy.
Finally, the moment I was waiting came. My Shio Ramen completely was a new thing for me. It does not have boiled egg in the bowl or either in the soup. Usually, Japanese ramen will be served with boiled eggs and when you break the eggs, the broth will turn into a mix flavorful soup. I have ramen in many shops around California for many times (I lived a year in LA) but I never taste ramen without eggs. So, you can understand my reaction. But the first spoon totally changed my mind. The broth was just perfect. I rarely use this word because it makes me think about sell associates who always say “perfect” on everything but sometimes it does not bring any meanings. When I say “perfect” means I feel it’s perfect and I have no other words to use besides “brilliant” (it is my British English influence). Other words such as “amazing” or “awesome” are not completely right. The ramen itself has a smooth, silky, not too chewy texture. My Shio Ramen has 2 pork slices with spinach and seaweed sheet. The pork slices are soft and juicy. All the flavor mixed together brought a balance of sweet, salty, garlic-y. I finished my bowl in 10 minutes and I did not realize I had some sweats on my forehead. I don’t think any customers will stay long in this ramen shop because people around me finished their bowls almost same time with me. Besides, it will be not nice if you spend time too long in the shop to chit chat and let people wait outside. You finish, you pay and you leave with a smile on your face. My husband ordered Tori Paitan ramen with duck and pork. The duck was really good but I think my Shio ramen will be better to someone who doesn’t want to go intense with meat.
I’m sure I’ll go back Mensho Tokyo Ramen in future but I have to prepare well. For example, go the shop earlier, especially on the weekend; bring more jackets (or blankets), definitely bring some snacks or a cup of tea to kill waiting time.
Mensho Tokyo SF: http://mensho.tokyo/
Mensho Tokyo SF Instagram: menya_shono