The sudden chill in the air, actual rain, and swelling ramen choices can only mean one thing: We're in for a winter filled with noodle slurping and pork fat stained apparel like never before. Start getting in the mood with our list of five essential bowls from long-standing favorite haunts alongside a couple of edgy newcomers, all of which go to show that San Diego is home to an array of regional, Japanese specialties.
With a soy sauce-based broth, don't let the simple-sounding shoyu ramen ($7.50) fool you - yes, it's good for newbies, but it also contains some of the tastiest slices of roast pork around, along with an array of earthy steamed spinach, braised bamboo shoots, chopped scallions and a marinated, medium-boiled egg. Besides its locally based outposts, the Hinotetsu Group boasts several restaurants in Japan, proving that you can't get much closer to the real deal without hopping on a 12-hour flight. Also try sister restaurant Hinotez nearby on Balboa Avenue.
Don't stand in the way of ramen lovers and their top bowl. The founder of this Los Angeles- and Orange County-based mini-chain couldn't find ramen in L.A. that met his Tokyo-spoiled standards, so Jin Yamada opened his own instead, and since 2012, has set the bar high for tonkotsu-style ramen worshippers in San Diego. The thick, 20-hour pork bone broth is unlike any other in town and comes served with straight noodles, slick and rich, cloaked in killer soup with traditional toppings.
Clairemont: 4706 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., 858.483.3431. Downtown: 950 Sixth Ave., downtown, 619.241.2251. ramen-yamadaya.com
Wa Dining Okan
This popular, cozy Japanese eatery ladles out something special during dinner only: umami rich dashi broth and chewy, wavy noodles topped with slices of charred green onion, nori, fish cake, a perfectly runny boiled egg, and seared duck breast fanned out for your food porn viewing pleasure. You won't be eating this duck ramen with your eyes for long though, because its alluring combination of land and sea will suck you right in, or rather, you'll slurp it all up with gleeful ambition.
3860 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa. 858.279.0941 or okanus.com
This modern Japanese concept is what happens when tradition and innovation meet in the name of refinement. Take the namesake ramen here, a glorified farm-to-table twist on the classic, weighty tonkotsu, with no MSG added to its pork and chicken bone based broth that welcomes house-made organic whole wheat noodles, succulent Berkshire pork chashu and fresh produce, including cherry tomato, baby corn and okra, plus a squirt of black garlic oil for good measure. With three styles available and more on the way, so far, undeniably great tasting ingredients and preparations standout here.
8055 Armour St., Suite 201A, Kearny Mesa. (858) 987-0222 or nishikiramen.com
What makes the perfect bowl of ramen? We take a look at a bowl of Tokyo yatai from Jinya Ramen Bar (formerly in Pacific Beach).