Melanie Wong | Jan 4, 200405:47 PM     8

My brother and I are enjoying the ramen rounds. We’re on a roll and made more headway, stopping for dinner at Burlingame’s Ramen Club.

At 9pm, we had our choice of seating at the bar overlooking the open kitchen or a table. The place looked rather worn at this time of night, like it had turned the tables over a dozen times. The specials board by the entrance listed ja-ja ramen made with ground pork and miso sauce that might be derived from Shandong’s zha jiang mian and bulgogi ramen that also sounded interesting. While we could sit down without a wait, the downside of going late is that these special ramens were already sold-out.

Being new to these ramen houses, it takes us a few minutes to get oriented to the options on the menu for stocks, sizes, extra noodles, and additional toppings. There were also a number of dinner sets, combining a small bowl of ramen with grilled salmon, fried chicken, etc. along with gomaae, salad and rice. Ramen Club has a lot of choices in this way and after a little more deliberation than usual, we settled on the Shio (standard) ramen, $6.95 with extra noodles, $2, for William, and the Mini super, $6.50, with extra cha siu, $1.75, for me. We also ordered Tori Kara-age, $5.50, as an appetizer. In the meantime, our waitress had brought us big white American-sized coffee mugs emblazoned with “Ramen Club” in blue block letters filled with parched rice tea. I noticed the tuna and tako poki appetizers on the menu and wondered if the chef was from Hawaii. Apparently, the current owner, Koji-san, had bought the place a couple years ago from the previous owners who were Hawaiian and had kept it on the menu.

The kara-age was big chunks of juicy thigh meat cut off the bone, marinated, battered, and deep-fried, served with some lemon wedges. As William said, it was fine and nothing wrong with it, he just prefers the more garlicky and gingery style and the accompaniments at Ryowa.

Of the two noodle bowls, this time mine was the tastier choice. William’s Shio with extra noodles was humungous, topped with roast pork, bamboo shoots, green onions, dried seaweed, and spinach, and underneath probably at least a half pound of noodles. However, the broth was somewhat angular and sharp, or as William looked woefully at the remaining half of his food (what would be a normal serving elsewhere) and said, “it’s just not yummy enough to finish”. I had been tipped that the Super shoyu ramen, $8.50, topped with stir-fried vegetables (only) was the best tasting. My Mini super was the small size of this. The stir-fried cabbage, scallions, carrot, snow peas, corn kernels, bean sprouts, and onions added a sweetly fresh-cooked note to the long-simmered flavor of the stock, a roundness of flavor and an oily richness. The stock wasn’t too salty and I drank it all. The extra pork was a generous six slices cut 1/4” thick from the loin, which sort of overwhelmed the small size bowl.

We both liked the char siu pork better than Santa’s. It’s richer and well-marbled with a soft texture that almost melts in the mouth, but not as flavorful as Halu’s. The noodles are the thicker style and smooth, not crinkly. They were good for the first few bites, but soon got too soft for my taste. The ramen is served in beautiful bowls, some with imari-style patterns and others with crackled ombre glazes.

Ramen Club
723 California Drive
Closed Mondays

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