Actually, Hell’s Ramen does have some fury, quite a bit of it, waiting to be unleashed on your tastebuds. In the second of my ramen explorations we tried this place, open for about three months now, which took the space of Tawara Sake Dining (reviewed here, not favorably). This is the newest outpost for the Iza Ramen folks, who also owned the recently shuttered Blowfish Sushi. I did not have high hopes for this chain, especially after my experience at Tawara, but we were pleasantly surprised.

The décor is fiery red, with erupting volcano photos on the wall, and a rather annoying check-in kiosk fueled by Yelp. I found it silly to have to enter my email address as I was the first one in when they opened that evening. I guess I can see it being useful if the place is packed and you want to go get a drink elsewhere while you wait.

To start, we ordered the peri peri (aka piri piri) karaage chicken.

Chicken karaage.

It’s not quite as crispy as I would have liked, but really juicy and packed some nice heat. And it held up well as leftovers, hours later. I’d get it again.

We also split the pork gyoza, made in the style of Hanetsuki gyoza (with “wings”), which I’d first heard of/tried at Rintaro (also reviewed here.)

Pork Gyoza.

Very tasty! It was served with only a little bit of sesame oil and fresh lemon. The pork was so flavorful we didn’t miss the soy sauce at all.

Now on to the main event. For my ramen foray, I got the Yasha with spicy chili paste. Billed as spicy, it nevertheless wasn’t the hottest on the menu, which title goes to the Hot as Hell ramen, featuring pickled whole ghost peppers, and supposedly you’re not allowed to order it unless you’ve graduated from the next level down in spiciness, the Emma R18, a chicken broth ramen that boasts a Carolina reaper pepper. Now mama loves her some heat, but I wanted to review something that I thought most people would try, so the white tonkotsu broth — rich and full-flavored — did the trick.

Ramen.

I didn’t appreciate that the egg came at an extra charge and was served on the side — refrigerator-cold, no less — so that I had to cut it open myself to get to the oozy goodness. Hmph. But even though the al dente noodles aren’t house-made, they are sourced nearby (San Jose) for the restaurant. The dollop of spicy vegan chili paste (do other chili pastes normally contain animal products?), tasted a lot like gochujang, and had just enough heat to give me a runny nose. The pork was dry, but I loved the red ginger. I deem this mostly good, and I’d definitely try the next level up in heat.

BF got the Japanese chicken keema curry.

Chicken curry.

Super-deliciously gingery and homey, although I wish it had been little chunks of chicken rather than ground.

We ate half the fried chicken, and most of my ramen came home with us for the BF’s Dinner Part 2.

Hell’s Ramen offers some local craft beers, as well as sake, bubbles, and wine.

All in all, the food here was much better than its predecessor, and I’d try more of its noodly offerings.

Hell’s Ramen (website)
2193 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-817-1609|