Fried Chicken Ramen @ Katana-ya, San Francisco

Mmmmm, mmmmm, good.

Mmmmm, mmmmm, good.

I’ve been slurping a lot of pho this winter, even though it hasn’t been that cold here in the Bay Area. My most recent excursion, which brought me to Mangosteen in the Tenderloin, marked the end of my recent pho dac biet bender. Mangosteen’s pho proved to be one of the richest versions of the lot, very flavorful, with a layer of grease droplets, most about the size of a dime, that lingered like lip balm. Although I did enjoy this version, this soup made me feel as though enough was enough, and that I should probably gear up for some ramen in February.

• • •

For me, the San Francisco ramen discussion begins at Katana-ya, which makes a terrific bowl of soup. Their fried chicken ramen is both unique and delicious, and I usually order this house specialty with a light soy broth (in the shōyu style). Diners at Katana-ya can also choose to increase the umami factor with a rich miso broth (in the aptly named miso style), or scale things back with an old-fashioned salt broth (in the shio style). Aside from the broth possibilities, the tiny Union Square restaurant offers dozens of other ramen variations, but the fried chicken version always beckons to me (I suppose that chicken sometimes trumps pork, but only when said bird is fried).

Aside from my obligatory bowl of fried chicken ramen, I will usually order a sushi roll at Katana-ya as well, since even the largest bowl of soup is still just soup (neither soup nor salad can ever qualify as an entrée for me). To be honest, I have definitely seen tighter sushi rolls at many other restaurants — both in the Bay Area and in Southern California — but the spicy tuna roll at Katana-ya remains a great add-on for just six bucks. And even though the two end pieces might always threaten to unravel into their soy-wasabi slurry, the tuna itself is always bright scarlet in color, extremely fresh, and deliciously abundant. Style points be damned — this is comfort food.

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