On the menu-
Appetizers in the 5-8 dollar range (peanuts are three bucks):
Togarashi Spiced Boiled Peanuts
Kurobuta Sausage with housemade kimchi
Ginger Beef Brisket Mushu
Shucked Oyster with Pickeled (sic) Watermelon, Sake Mignonette
Teriyaki Chicken Salad
Seven Radish Salad w/ Spicy Ahi Crostini
Ramen bowls from 8-13 bucks:
all topped with soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, ginger, scallions, seaweed, sesame seed
Tonkotsu bowl- 8
Underbelly Ramen- char-su belly, applewood smoked bacon, kurobuta sausage
Belly of the Beast- Oxtail dumpling, smoked brisket, hoisin glazed shortrib
and without the egg (for all my vegan friends)
Vegetable Ramen- truffle oil, shitake, shimeji, oyster mushroom, enoki, white asparagus
Charred Spicy Kimchi Ramen- napa cabbage, rainbow carrots, shishito peppers
toppings to add: all the meats and veg, broiled unagi, kimchi octopus, and sake braised oxtail from 2-5 bucks
Had lunch here today, and gotta commend the post-hipster kimchi-taco set for taking a stab at something other than TJ dogs or re-deconstructed Cobb salads for late night grub. You walk in, and are encouraged to place your order immediately at the cash register (about $40 bucks for two bowls, and app and some beer), and furble your way through the narrow passage between back-to-back rows of 100-lb wrought steel barstools that seem designed to bruise your hips (and certainly your unmentionables), search for a seat at the bar facing in, or at the inner bar facing out, or at the outer bar facing in beneath huge open windows along this noisy part of Kettner. If you choose one of the last two options, you should be prepared to accept second-hand broth falling into your bowl from the ends of the noodles being slurped by the stranger sitting close directly across from you. Great beer list- looked like they've at least 25 on tap, but the Racer X I had was a little weird with ramen...
I know Momofuku is inspiring to this crowd in a lot of ways, but you can't really classify their stuff as ramen. Pretty much the same with Underbelly. For the real thing, you can't do better in SD than Yakitori Yakudori Ramen or Santouka. Some elements were really good: nice tonkotsu broth, decent noodles, good standard toppings. Some things were not: characterless mushroom-based broth in the veggie bowls, raw carrots in the Charred Spicy Kimchi Ramen, along with very little of the namesake kimchi, lots of direct upfront Scoville-style heat that was kinda weird in ramen, soft-boiled egg that was very soft boiled so that the whites were runny, very little broth and way too much noodle. Hopefully with a bit of time, these things will sort themselves out, although I'm guessing that some of them are quite intentional. Other things were just odd: the braised short rib trend of recent years has spilled over into this brand of fusion, and so there's a lot of beef going into the meat bowls- kinda like having brisket barbecue ending up in my soup, oxtails in my dumplings (really just wontons with a thin but nice tasting beef filling). Now that I'm looking at the menu, there was no sign of the Hoisin Glazed Short Rib in my Belly of the Beast Bowl, so no comment there. In fact, a lot of beef and not as much pork as a place called "Underbelly" let me to expect.
The gyoza were fine.
Certainly not izakaya, probably not ramen, but whatever. Good place to drink some nice beer and eat something hot past 11pm in a part of town more known for spaghetti, meatballs and bad parking. Careful of the stools on the way out.
One last thing: as Neighborhood has no ketchup, Underbelly has no spoons.
750 W Fir St (At Kettner), Little Italy