My San Francisco trip last year with Sharon led us to Katana-Ya. Twice. It was that good. What looks like your hole-in-the-wall dive, is actually a Michelin star ranked restaurant. The “Bib Gourmand” category are for restaurants with good food, reasonably priced (under $40 for two). You can see how they select the restaurants here. With my last (and only thusfar) Michelin star visit, the multiple courses were beautifully presented, with complex components, servers around you paying 100% attention. My philosophy: good food is good food. What I thought would be a meal of a lifetime, still isn’t the best meal I’ve had. Best food ends up being random finds, local restaurants, cheap to moderately priced good eats! Which is why it shouldn’t surprise anybody that on this last trip to San Francisco with Joe, we were there. Three times.
The restaurant is located just off of Union Square, a short walk for most tourists staying in the downtown area. The place is tiny, seating maybe 4 at the sushi bar, and maybe 25 – 30 people at the tables. There’s a clip board outside so you can jot your name down and menus posted along the windows so you can start perusing. Downside: you have to wait outside and if it happens to be a windy night, it can get cold. Upside: service is lightning fast if you order just ramen and the table turnover is quick. On average, we waited for about 5 minutes with 2 – 3 tables in front of us, each seating for 2 – 4 people. Everybody knows to order fast, eat and enjoy, and get out!
Their specialty is ramen, multiple different types which you can order in a salt, miso, or soy base broth. If served with cuts of pork, you can choose a rich or light as well. Joe ordered their regular ramen on the first night, miso and light. It came with three slices of chasu pork, bamboo shoots, onions, and seaweed. For an additional $1.50, you can also make the broth spicy, which not surprisingly, he did.
Since this was my third time here, I knew it’s all about the Katana-ya Ramen, their over-the-top deluxe ramen. Served with two of their fried gyoza (pork dumplings), half of a boiled egg, two pieces of their chicken karaage (fried chicken), two slices of chasu pork, bamboo shoots, corn, green onion, and seaweed (drool!). With an overload of toppings, I ordered the same broth as Joe: miso, light, spicy. Tip: ask for a plate on the side. I like to take out the dumplings and chicken so they remain crispy! Hand spun noodles, just perfect in texture and in size, a very flavorful broth, served piping hot and within an average of 6 minutes (you bet I timed it), you can’t go wrong with this place!
On my fourth visit, I opted for just the chicken karaage ramen (not pictured) because I love the fried chicken here. It comes with three pieces to compensate for the loss of gyoza, egg, and chasu. Joe’s second visit taught him to get the extra spicy ramen (not pictured, imagine an blood red broth), not for the faint of heart! Too spicy for me!
I knew Joe would be eyeing some of my noodles, so I also ordered the salmon and hamachi nigiri. Like all other sushi places here, the fish was fresher than Edmonton’s selection. In this case, the sashimi was nicely cut and also had some sort of glaze on top. Warning: wasabi in the middle! On our very last visit (5th for me, 3rd for Joe), there was an overwhelming amount of wasabi! Depends on the hand of the sushi chef I suppose.
My picks: if you’re a big eater, get the Katana-Ya ramen to try all the possible toppings. If you’d like a little more selection in your meal, get the Chicken Karaage Ramen and a few pieces of sashimi or nigiri. I’ve only tried one roll on last year’s trip, which wasn’t that memorable, but still good. They have quite a selection there as well but looking around, most people have a big bowl of ramen and a few pieces of sushi. If I ever return (high chance next time I’m in San Francisco), there’s a kim chee ramen, spicy tofu ramen, and a selection of udon soups I might venture into. Open for lunch, dinner, and late night eats (last call 1:15am), definitely go here if you’re in the area! Also worth the wait if the lines does get long!Katana-Ya
430 Geary St
San Francisco, CA