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Spam Ramen @ Bear’s Ramen House (Berkeley)

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Spam Ramen @ Bear’s Ramen House (Berkeley)

Melanie Wong | Dec 1, 2004 03:31 AM

Last week while in the East Bay, I had the urge to catch a glimpse of the Campanile. Maybe I wanted to be closer to the alma mater to revel in Cal’s glorious victory. In any case I headed up Telegraph Ave. and ended up at Bear’s Ramen House in the food court on Durant next door to where I used to live.

This hole-in-the-wall has been recommended for Korean gook soo. I noted the signs for fresh housemade noodles and the noodle machine, dusty with flour, with some glee. With “ramen” in its name, I felt safe ordering the house specialty here and picked the spam ramen. Big mistake. This is a new low on the ramen ranking scale.

Sitting at the counter overlooking the stove, I could watch each step of this nightmare unfold. My first tip-off and cue to run should have been when I noticed that each time a lid was lifted from one of the large boiling pots so that I could see the contents, all looked like they had only water in them. Chew on that idea --- a soup noodle restaurant with no broth, stock or soup bubbling on the stove. Watching other orders in preparation, I soon observed that the source of “soup” was the brown powder ladled into individual pots and boiled with what would otherwise be considered “topping” ingredients. I hoped that these might be for other kinds of dishes, but when I saw the slices of Spam hit the pot, I knew that one was mine. As horrifying as it was to watch the Spam, seaweed, slices of raw onions, red chili paste, and scallion frothing away on the stove in the brown liquid stuff, the kicker was the cake of fried-dried ramen tossed into the pot.

“No!”, I screamed. “Oh no, please, I want fresh noodles!” The cook then explained that the fresh noodles were only for gook soo. Unfortunately for me, from where I was sitting, I could see the “fresh noodle” fine print for the posted listing of gook soo preps, but the “fried noodle” designation for the ramen choices was out of view. She put the bowl of mishmosh down in front of me and retreated to a back corner.

I took a bite of the noodles. They weren’t even a high grade of dried ramen, just standard issue. The soup was unbearably salty and over-MSG’d. The tingling and numbness on my tongue reminded me of how it felt to taste the brine in the Dead Sea and almost made me wonder whether I might be experiencing some cell death in my mouth tissues.

Deeming it inedible from two bites, I pushed the bowl aside and settled my bill with the cashier. “You don’t like fried ramen? I’m sorry”, he said. I shook my head and said, “I can’t eat that, it’s too horrible.” Later a couple blocks down the street I had my real lunch at Slurp, fresh noodles unmucked up by tons of MSG, cheaper too.

One last thing – a sign posted on the wall at Bear’s Ramen House offers “coxinha”, which is a Brazilian chicken croquette. What’s up with that?!?

PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING

1. Ramen Halu, San Jose
2. Santa, San Mateo
3. Tanto, San Jose (clam ramen, prior to the chef change)
4 & 5. Ryowa, Mountain View and Berkeley
6. Himawari, San Mateo
7. Maru Ichi, Mountain View
8. Gen Ramen, Fremont
9. Masa’s Sushi, Mountain View
10.Tomoe, San Rafael
11.Do-Henkotsu, San Jose
12.Kaimuki Grill, San Mateo
13.Ramen Club, Burlingame
14.Sushi Bistro, San Francisco
15.Manpuku, Berkeley
16.Tanpopo, San Francisco
17.Oidon, San Mateo
18.Katanaya, El Cerrito
19.Sapporo-ya, San Francisco
20.Tokyo Ramen, Fremont
21.Hotei, San Francisco
22.Bear’s Ramen House, Berkeley

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