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Napa Cabbage Shoyu Ramen @ Santa, San Mateo

Melanie Wong | Jan 15, 200504:26 AM

On Monday William and I returned to Santa in San Mateo for dinner. We wanted to try some of the other ramen topping/flavor combinations as well as order some appetizers. Arriving at 7:35pm, we had only a 10-minute wait inside for a couple seats to open up at the counter. Unfortunately, the stewed pork was already sold out, which is reputed to be Santa’s strength, as well as the pork flavor broth.

My brother had the miso corn ramen. Topped with a pile of corn, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, negi, and roast pork, this was enjoyable but he wasn’t that excited by the combination. The miso flavor had an earthy edge and good depth, plus sweet highlights from the kernels of corn, but seemed a little flat and ended up monotonal.

The napa cabbage ramen in a shoyu broth that I ordered was just lovely. The broth was the lightest colored shoyu stock I’ve had in this series yet it was deliciously meaty in flavor with a moderately glycerined mouth feel and bits of rich pork fat floating on the surface. The shoyu seasoning had a very refined taste and restrained saltiness. The napa cabbage offered a fresh sweetness, and the addition of daikon shoots for peppery bite and juicy green crispness was brilliant. The bamboo shoots had a sweet aftertaste, and the slices of fresh shitake added a silky-textured earth tone. I loved the elegance and balance of this offering.

We had both ordered extra noodles, and they are still very good. Not as wide as I remembered, yet very silky and slurpable with a nice chewiness. The napa cabbage ramen was the best combination I’ve tried here so far, however, the roast pork continues to be Santa’s weak point. Trimmed into neat rectangles, this time it was fattier and not as dry, but still lacked much flavor.


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