Melanie Wong | Aug 22, 200404:27 PM     2

Driving down College the week before, my peripheral chow-vision caught the red neon words “Ramen Noodle” in the window of Manpuku. Thursday morning I was back here to try it out.

Manpuku is small with an open kitchen behind a counter and a few tables. It has low prices and a fast food-y feel to it, as you order and pay at the cashier, get a number (wooden blocks decorated with different colorful themes), then the food is brought to your table. Tea and ice water are self-serve. Ramen comes in ten variations here, plus two lunch combos. There are a few pictures posted near the cashier to help you decide. I ordered #17 Champon, $5.95, described as noodle in soy sauce flavored soup with stir-fried seafood, veg, and BBQ pork.

Perched on a tall stool at the sticky blonde wood counter, I could watch the cooks prep my order. Slender bits of zucchini, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions, and onions were singed in the wok with slivers of chasu, squid tentacles, and bay shrimp. This was piled on the steaming hot noodles in broth and had the most wonderful wok fragrance. The fresh vegetables imparted a lovely sweetness to the cloudy light stock that tasted more of pork and chicken than shoyu. The stir-fried blend did not leave a heavy oil slick like Ramen Club’s. Even though the chasu was tasty, it was pretty dried out. And, the shrimp were those stupid pre-cooked and chemically treated stuff that turned into tasteless rubber when cooked again. The crinkly egg noodles were fresh but standard issue starting off al dente but getting soft quickly. The well-balanced stock was refreshing, tasting more like a Cantonese soup, and I drank most of it until the saltiness started to catch up to me. Ignoring the shrimp, this was a tasty bowl and good value for the price.

Besides ramen, other noodles dishes, sushi, donburi, and bento boxes round out the menu. The fish in the sushi case looked very average, but the prices for nigiri start at only $1.10 each (e.g., maguro, tamago). There’s a big refrigerator case by the cashier stand stocked with prepacked sushi, salads, and other cold dishes. They were a popular grab-and-run at lunch time. A half-hour before closing, they’re marked down 50%.

2977 College Ave.


1. Ramen Halu, San Jose
2. Santa, San Mateo
3. Tanto, San Jose (clam ramen), haven't been to Santa Clara location
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.Manpuku, Berkeley
15.Oidon, San Mateo
16.Tanpopo, San Francisco
17.Katanaya, El Cerrito
18.Sapporo-ya, San Francisco
19.Tokyo Ramen, Fremont
20.Hotei, San Francisco

Link: http://www.elmwoodshop.com/pages/stor...

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