Last week, the Ramen Gods smiled down on me in recognition of my work in spreading their gospel because for the first time ever I waltzed into a popular ramen restaurant during dinnertime hours to be seated immediately. With almost 3,000 Yelp reviews, Katana-Ya was definitely on my San Francisco hot list. The restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall in historic Union Square, completely overshadowed by the high-end shopping, hotels, and theaters nearby. Inside, the zigzagging neon lights cast a dusky purple glow, giving it a very dive-y feel. In applying that same no-frills attitude found in Katana-Ya's interior design, the menu brazenly declares at the top: MSG ADDED. Now who doesn't love a restaurant that keeps it real?
After dining at ramen-only restaurants for so long, I was surprised to find that ramen wasn't the main focus of their menu (oh god, am I a ramen snob now?). On their very, very expansive menu you'll find curry rice, sushi, wonton soup, fried rice, udon, tons of apps and more. But of course, in order to fulfill my duty as ramen blogger extraordinaire I opted for their signature Katana-Ya ramen bowl. When ordering here, instead of stating to your waiter or waitress which bowl you'd like to consume - perhaps adding some toppings - and being done with it (as you would in most ramen restaurants), you select your ramen dish along with the soup base it comes in - a choice I was shocked to have as usually that decision is left to the chef. The soup base, as the foundation of the entire dish, imparts so much personality to the rest of the bowl that allowing such frivolous customization just seems so... inauthentic! Oh god I am a ramen snob now.
Katana-Ya was full of surprises because I was absolutely floored by how many toppings I got in my ramen for such a decent price. Eight toppings altogether for $13? SCORE. Let's count 'em (in definitive ranking of deliciousness): bamboo shoots (yuck!!), hard-boiled egg (not soft boiled but I can let this one slide), mushrooms, corn, scallions, giant slab of BBQ pork (yum), fried potstickers (double yum), and FRIED CHICKEN (TRIPLE YUM). Fried chicken in ramen are you kidding me. This bowl is ramen as the Ramen Gods originally intended: a generous bowl of piping hot carb-y, salty, fatty comfort. Katana-Ya seems to me like the place that gives no effs about the alkalinity of its noodles or pH levels of its broth. And why would it need to because their ramen is freakin delicious.
In summary: Katana-Ya is certainly not a place for ramen purists but is a refreshing change of pace with a dining experience that promises to check any ramen snobbery at the door.