At the behest of Ms. Wong (see Andersen Bakery post), here's my take on Sapporo-Ya. I've been popping by the San Francisco outpost of this Japanese chain for several years now and it's very consistent, as well as convenient when browsing at the excellent bookstore across the way or stopping by to have a cup of "Japanese" gelato from the wacky little crepe/gelato joint in Japan Center.
First off, if you are a true noodle head that has made it your life's purpose to find the perfect ramen, udon or soba, this is not your Mecca. That being said, Sapporo-Ya is a good solid place to slurp. I find it to be much better and much less crowded than Mifune or any of the other eateries on the other side of the bridge. Also, they do make their noodles right there on the spot. In fact, you can even watch them if you time it right.
I keep it pretty basic when I go there and recommend the Miso Ramen, Kimchee Ramen or, most recently, the Chasu Ramen. It comes steaming serenly away in a large bowl. The pork is a world away from the bright red shimmering slices of Chinese Char Siu. It is more like a braised pork loin or daube. The meat is "chopstick tender" and the little bits of connective tissue softly gelatinous. There are several generous sized slices sitting atop the fresh ramen, along with the ubiquitous hard-boiled egg and a smattering of seaweed and oshinko. The broth is savory and satisfyingly enriched by the pork.
The noodles are good. They have never arrived overcooked and they benefit from the satisfying toothsome quality that defies the dehydration/rehydration of any dried noodle.
Dinner prices could be a bit lower ($6.50 - $9.00), but I understand the rent is higher than the average hole-in-the-wall. I think Sapporo-Ya is on par with places like Bears Ramen House in Berkeley, which also makes its own ramen. Again, this is a Japanese chain, but it is a decent one, especially if you're in the neighborhood and want to steer clear of the Benihana mayhem on the other side of the bridge.
P.S. On a side note, if you are still searching for the perfect noodle (a noble pursuit to be certain), then you'll be wanting to buy that ticket to Japan, hop the nearest bullet train to a little place on the outskirts of Kyoto where an old man kneeds, rolls and cuts each noodle with inhuman uniformity and speed...but that's another post all together ;)
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