Located at the landmark 101 California street, The Ramen Bar is a collaboration between Ken Tominaga and Michael Mina. The restaurant website describes it perfectly: “The Ramen Bar combines rustic, old-world Japanese charm with modern, urban sophistication.” Tominaga and Mina’s other collaboration, Pabu, a modern Japanese Izakaya, is right next door.
I visited The Ramen Bar with my friend Bruce for an early dinner on a Friday. Their happy hour starts at 3pm, and I can see this place being a popular lunch or weekday dinner spot. They are not open at all on weekends. This is the first time I’ve seen a fast casual concept for ramen in the US. Order at the bar, serve yourself water, and someone will bring your ramen to you.
In typical San Francisco fashion, it was just barely warm enough to sit outside. The fresh air was nice though and the ramen kept us warm. Bruce ordered the Tokyo-style ramen ($12), which is what this place is known for. The broth is supposed to be a lighter option, and his bowl looked good. I ordered the vegetarian Mushroom & Soy ramen ($11). Loaded with shrooms!
There were A LOT toppings, mostly different types of mushrooms, plus a mushroom tempura with a nice, light batter. The miso broth was tasty without being too rich or heavy. The mizuna Japanese mustard added a mild peppery flavor, lighter than arugula to the broth.
I hate to say it, but the noodles were not good at all. They were thin noodles, which would be fine when cooked properly, but they were overcooked and soggy. I’m pretty surprised by the sad state of those noodles, especially as the broth was quite enjoyable.