Ramenwell signature pork ramen. Photo by Annika Hom.

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

Mark, 

To preserve the fabric of society, you must sometimes humor people. You assure the drunk guy at the bar that he could totally fight a bear with his bare hands and win, and that your 70-year-old colleague’s summary of union history is sooo fascinating. So, in that spirit, Mark, when you rejected my restaurant recommendation and instead decided we’d eat ramen on the hottest day of the year, I told you it’s not absolutely insane, and is in fact a really good idea. Hey, man, I felt bad; at that age, you’re cold because your circulation is poorer than your ability to construct coherent sentences. 

But oh, how you test me. We arrived at Ramenwell, and you told the waitress we wanted to eat in the nine billion degrees outside. You asked me to switch seats so you could be “out of the sun.” Weird; got a little warm there, did you? You knew full well that society dictates that I, a younger, healthier, prettier individual, must sacrifice my comfort for you, or else risk looking like an asshole. It’s the same courtesy shown toward other protected groups, like pregnant women, children, and in your case, those who are too off their rocker. 

Our waitress was profusely sweating when she delivered our menus, and was rightfully dumbfounded to find us, Dumb and Dumber, asking for tonkatsu ramen. She accentuated our mistake by asking why we were there, and pointed out the restaurant was deserted. But you’re used to being alone, aren’t you?

Quickly, a steaming bowl of “signature pork ramen,” Ramenwell’s version of tonkotsu, arrived. The noodles were sublime; chewy, though the portion was middling. The broth — aka the true mark of excellent ramen — was divine. I immediately perspired, but the tasty soup allowed me to drown out your half-hour dissection of Dante’s Inferno. Oh, the irony. 

The meat was fantastic; tender, with a crispy edge topped with an interesting, tangy glazed sauce. Floating in the soup was some shredded meat that got tangled in the noodles. Though the meat was flavorful, I don’t know how I feel about the shredded meats’ soft texture. I’m sure your gums appreciated it, though, Statler. In contrast, the bamboo shoots tasted sharp and yummy. Our kind waitress offered us some Dole Whip for dessert, but you declined. My generation has it easy enough already as it is, right? 

Overall, the ramen was amazing. I just wished I could have enjoyed it in a cooler atmosphere, weather and companion-wise. 

catch up:

* * * *

Annika,

“Too bad youth is wasted on the young.”  Mark Twain.

Annika, I don’t know if Twain was commenting on your Ramenwell review, but you certainly went out of your way to prove his old adage.

It was a hot day. Yes, even in San Francisco such miracles occur. When these days happen, instead of jumping to wilted, adolescent conclusions, you should consult “the science”: hot liquids on hot days cool you down.   

Responsible journalism requires more than a personal weather report.

A seasoned professional does not let the heat get under her skin and affect her reporting. 

I chose the Souper Spicy Ramen, which appears to be a spiced-up version of the Signature Ramen. There are various levels of spice: I chose “full spice,” partially to cool off, partially to watch your discomfort  (which you tried, but failed, to hide). It turns out the “full spice” adds some heat, but doesn’t commandeer the bowl.

Like the Signature, the Souper Spicy is tonkotsu, based on a pork broth cooked for at least 20 hours. Thick. Rich. Deep. Textured. Go ahead: pile on the adjectives. But “Divine”? Give me a break. You should have a thesaurus open on your phone at all times. 

Call it the most flavorful broth I’ve encountered thus far in the Mission. It deserves a medal. A monument. Marvelous.

And the noodles! Wow. The broth seemed to infuse the inside as well as the outside of the noodle. It was as if the noodles were not an addition to the broth, but an extension. Yet they did not lose identity, form, tone, bite, or noodly afterglow.  Remarkable.

Eaters who patronize Ramenwell should prepare themselves for plenty of pork. Not only the unhealthy slice of fatted meat that tops the bowl, there’s a lot of  shredded pork (and pork fat) swimming around the depths. Yes, the shreds got caught in my teeth but, having been raised by a pack of wild carnivores, I’ve learned to live with life’s inconveniences.

Speaking of meat, you forgot to mention my dog, who joined us, and who, I pointed out at the time, preferred shade. Is his absence from your review a sign of species chauvinism?  He accepts your apology and hopes you have learned how unexamined biases contribute to inadequate reviews.

And by inadequate, I mean you never once mention the seaweed (nori), onions and scallions. To be fair, they played the role of minor details, but didn’t The Editor tell you that God is in the details.  Or is it the Devil?  Maybe both. 

Did the heat make you drop the soft-boiled egg?  Ramenwell claims to marinate the egg, and this one tasted sharper and more savory than what I expect from a soft-boiled egg. It also had a greenish hue, which could have been, but wasn’t, a turn-off.

ML’s readership must wonder why a reporter would lavish (what you consider) praise on the bamboo shoots. “Yummy”? Really? The shoots added a bit of bite, but barely had any taste on their own, much less one that could stand up to the broth. “Yummy”? I know you can do better than that.

Note the portion was more than adequate for the price, so I will rank Ramenwell at or near the top of the list.

One last thing to clear up: To take your mind off the heat, I talked to you about Dante.  Obviously that didn’t work, because I was discussing the “Paradiso,” not the “Inferno.”  Your comments remind me why I made a mistake talking Dante at all with someone barely out of pigtails. “The Divine Comedy” is meant for adults.

Ramenwell is at 3378 18th St. near Mission Street.

NoodleMania Scorecard

Annika

Mark

$$

$$

1st

2nd

$$$

$$$

3rd

$$

$$

4th

$$

$$

$$

5th

$$

6th

$$

$$

7th

Mau

$

$$

8th

Mau

$$

$$

Bao

$$

$

9th

10th

$$

$$

Bao

11th

$$

$$

$

= low price

$$$

= high price

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Follow Us

REPORTER. 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 on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. You also should have tried their ube rice pudding, it’s delicious! And served cold, so it sounds like it would have been refreshing.

Leave a comment
Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published.