Restaurants & Bars

Mabo Ramen @ Suzu Noodle House, SF Japantown

Melanie Wong | Jan 7, 200603:07 AM     4

Friday I dropped by Suzu Noodle House in Japantown for a return visit for lunch. Much as I want to like this place, this was worse than the first trip and I left my bowl of ramen uneaten.

I opted for mabo ramen, which uses shoyu stock topped with mapo-spicy tofu. The topping was just okay as the tofu was rather coarse and the sauce was gloppy. I liked the stock much better this round. Meatier in flavor yet still quite light and greaseless, the shoyu flavoring was pleasantly subtle to let the other flavors shine through.

The problem was the noodles. I ordered them "hard", and they were indeed. They were wound into a tight skein to support the tofu topping above the surface of the stock as shown in the photo below. As I loosened some with my chopsticks and lifted them out of the soup, the caustic smell that had been a problem in my previous visit hit my nostrils. I took a bite, and the unpleasant alkali taste was even stronger than the smell. I suspected that by ordering them cooked hard, the noodles had less time in the boiling water to dissipate the alkali treatment.

I called my server over and had her sniff the noodles. She said that was the smell of real ramen. I told her that I understood that, but this was too strong and sickening to eat, and asked if the dish could be made over boiling another batch of noodles in a fresh pot of water. When she went back in the kitchen with my request, I could over hear an agitated male voice saying that the smell was the special water and nothing could be changed. She was most apologetic when she came out to tell me that the dish could not be made any differently. I thanked her for her trouble, and said that I was sorry that they could not offer me anything else. With that, I got up and left.

Once out the door, I could feel my upper lip and tip of the tongue start to smart. Luckily I was parked close by and had a tangerine in the car. I quickly peeled it, popped a couple segments in my mouth, and the acidic juices helped wash away the burning sensation and prevented further injury.

Suzu has improved its stock since my previous visit. Yet, since I don't have a taste for caustic noodles, I have to drop its ranking down to #40 from #38.


1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Santa, 805 S B St, San Mateo
3. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
6. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
9. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
10.BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
11.Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
12.Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
13.Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
14.Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
15.Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
16.Niko Niko Sushi/Katanaya, 336 O'Farrell St, San Francisco
17.Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
18.Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
19.Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
20.Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
21.Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
22.Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
23.Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
24.Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino
25.Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
26.Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
27.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
28.King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark
29.Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
30.Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
31.Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
32.Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
33.Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
34.Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
35.Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
36.Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
37.Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
38.La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
39.Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
40.Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
41.Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
42.Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas
43.Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
44.Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
45.Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
46.Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
47.Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley

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