Ramen from Ushio

Annika, 20-something, and Mark, 70-something, are out to find the Mission’s most noteworthy noodles.

Hi Annika,

I wish you had warned me not to eat ramen while watching the NBA finals unless wearing a bib or hazmat suit. 

Since I was on my own the other night, I ordered spicy miso ramen from Ushio to watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals. 

The first thing to know about Ushio’s spicy miso ramen: it’s spicy! By that, I mean hot. But not only spicy hot. Even though I felt like I was in the middle of an extreme heat wave, I could sense other spices at work in the chicken miso. Think of the heat as Giannis Antetokounmpo and the chicken and other spices as his team, combining to provide a smooth, savory, very flavorful, and hot, combo.

During my early ramen years, I would have only cared about the broth, and whatever else, mainly meat, I found in the bowl. Now, thanks to you, Annika, I am focusing on the noodles. Unlike burgers and fries, noodles blossom under a mindful gaze.

There was plenty of headspace to contemplate noodles as the Sun and Bucks were bricking shots like stoned teenagers in Dolores Park.

Ushio’s noodles are like Antetokounmpo’s limbs — long, loose and flexible. Fork-friendly strands of wheat flour and water were happily sucked in to slither about the floor of my mouth, showing off enough bite and presence to delight both teeth and tongue.

There also seemed to be something about the dough that absorbed or moderated the heat. Not that I have anything against spicy-hot food (I married a New Mexican, didn’t I?), but as the wildfires teach us, excessive heat can drown out an entire meal. And not in a good way.

read our first edition:

Though dependent on the broth, the noodles dominated the other ingredients.

The soft-boiled egg ran with little energy, grace or purpose. At one point, I actually felt sorry for the egg, as it seemed so out of place.

Unfortunately, the pork chashu lacked its own distinct flavor, like one of those “role players” who gets paid a lot of money without doing very much. Maybe overcooked.

As for the “cloud ear mushrooms,” their subtle taste gets lost in the hot and spicy sensations. They may have added something else which I missed during a commercial.

On the other hand, the seaweed was something special, like one of the Bucks sinking a three-point shot. It had a bitter, kind of healthy personality, which infused the bowl with a spirit of hardy resilience.

I was slurping up the last of the noodles and broth when Antetokounmpo made a noodle-like move and stuffed a simple dunk. I felt full, not stuffed, when I finished.

The noodles are in your bowl, Annika. My gut tells me that, although satisfying, Ushio’s Spicy Miso Ramen would not hold up over a seven game series.

After apologizing to my shirt and pants, I promised next time I would give the ramen my full, undivided, attention.

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Hey, Mark! 

It looks like we have more in common than I originally thought. Surprisingly, a lot of your Ushio review struck a chord with me. And, those nearest and dearest to my heart know well that a food stain on my clothes is quite characteristic. 

When I think of my hometown, I think of basketball and ramen. The former I was forced to listen to about endlessly as I befriended half the basketball team in high school (and now you add fuel to the fire here, I guess), and the latter I was happily brought around to eat, as I befriended numerous ramen lovers. While I can’t say I know my way around a court or a ramen bowl in the same vein as my best friends do, I have at least been exposed to both more than I probably wish. And, I can definitely say that Ushio’s bowl would not hold up in a seven-game series. 

I opted out of the spice this time and ordered a classic bowl of tori tonkotsu, or a pork broth ramen. It reminded me very much of a scene in the sitcom New Girl, which crossed-over in a few episodes with another of my favorite comedies, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The police captain offers his soup from Ling’s Palace to Zooey Deschanel, the main character of New Girl, and shrugs. He says: “It’s fine. It’s just fine.” 

In other words, this ramen wasn’t life-changing. It didn’t make me want to yack, but it was nothing to write home about — exceptions, of course, being when a noodle column helps pay the bills.  Like you said, Mark, the bowl was filling but didn’t leave me stuffed, and that’s one of the few highlights of this “just fine” bowl of ramen. The other was the consistency and size of the noodles, and I am a believer that ramen should be on the thinner side, which this was. They stood out for their bite and the slight salty flavor that I love, and I found I didn’t have to order extra noodles (hurrah!) 

But, while you focused on the noodles, as you should, I gotta say I have some beef with this chicken and pork broth. Like I said last week about pho, a good hallmark of these soup dishes is obviously the soup. This tonkotsu broth was surprisingly watered down in my opinion, leaving a much more subtle pork flavor than I was hoping for. First off, tonkotsu broth is supposed to be rich and creamy, which is the rightful result of long-cooked pork bones.

Secondly, the dish’s description on GrubHub wrongfully dubs the soup as milky chicken broth (the tori) — despite, as I previously said, it tasting quite watery. As all hot cocoa lovers know, tasting water where you’re supposed to taste milk actually makes a huge difference, and not in a good way. To me, ramen is supposed to leave you feeling stuffed because you know it’s so damn good that you want to order an extra side of noodles. Then, you want to down the remaining broth as if you just got Smirnoff iced. (If you don’t understand these references, too bad, because I don’t understand your basketball references. My court knowledge amounts to Space Jam, LeBron James, and any basketball player that dated a Jenner or Kardashian — Devin Booker included.) 

I thought the seaweed had the texture of a wet newspaper (again, I am a serial spiller, so I know this from personal experience). The pork and corn was fine, but I gotta say that egg, Mark, was a game-winner in my eyes. That subtle taste of ponzu and the perfect, smooth runniness of a ramen egg! I tried to savor it until the final minutes. 

My brother, who ordered the spicy miso ramen, enjoyed his, but agreed with me that the bowl was just all right. My dad, however, was a superfan of his spicy garlic ramen, which was more peppery than garlicky. We had to shut that opinion down real quick. 

Besides the ramen, we raved over the gyoza, or pan-fried dumplings, which were super juicy. My brother and dad also cheered for the tender chicken karaage. I will also say that the service was impeccable, and our waiter was so friendly. While no basketball game was on, we did get to watch Olivia Rodrigo’s music video for “Driver’s License” as it showed on screen (which, by the way, I would’ve totally filmed and directed differently). That friendly service in itself certainly scored points with me. 

Ushio Ramen
3128 16th St.
(415) 703-0318

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Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

Mark Rabine

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been."

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