There is nothing that excites me as much as a good noodle. We have been lacking in a noodle habitation, so I was excited to see Raku Ramen open in in one of the three restaurant spaces in San Luis Obispo’s Mix on Monterey. A quick stopover delighted my senses with a casual atmosphere, solid menu, and lunch friendly prices. Focusing on noodle and rice bowls, this little haven stole my heart. I took my managing editor that is a notorious picky eater, but they made her a believer. Owned by the same mastermind of flavor, Steve Supina who runs the Raku Izakaya in Grover Beach and has been a staple in my family for years. Steve has opened a noddle centric place, and kept a few favorites from Grover Beach on the menu for the San Luis Raku Ramen.
First my guest asked me “What is Ramen?” thinking there would be no way my palate was accepting of the Dollar Store Top Ramen we all subsisted on in College. I explained, with my noodle passion, what truly comprises a bowl of ramen. Perfect Ramen subsist with three distinct parts: the soup, noodles, and toppings. Each part is no less important than the other. The chemistry between them creates the rich and exquisite taste of Japanese ramen. Each part, depending on the chef’s tastes and preferences, vary widely as well. The soup may be created using soy sauce, miso, salt, and countless other ingredients. The noodles also vary in taste, texture, color, and form, but most noodles share the consistency shared by the common ingredients of flour, eggs, and kansui (a type of alkaline water). The toppings help to accentuate the noodles and the soup, from the Chashu (braised pork belly) to the ni-tamago (boiled egg pickled in soy sauce). With limitless varieties and variations in each respective ingredient, Japanese ramen is truly diverse, allowing each chef to create their own unique flavors and tastes.
We started with the Spicy Garlic Edamame, which she would pronounce her favorite thing in the world. These Japanese soybeans are enhanced with a garlic/miso/chili sauce that is out of this world. She went for the Curry Udon that was done with a Japanese Beef Curry Sauce. She loved every bite. I went for the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen that was a beautiful to the eye as it was to my taste buds. The noddle soup was filled with flavor, spicy ground pork, a slice of chashu pork, and the ni-tamago. It was garnished with chopped green onions and garlic chips. It was subtle and wonderful, even with its spicy zest.
I brought back Gary and friends the next night and we all went crazy for the food. We all shared the Spicy Garlic Edamame, an order of Mixed Tempura and Takoyaki. Raku is one of the few restaurants in SLO that serve this amazing dish that is commonly called octopus balls. All appetizers were flavor forward and wonderful. We shared a bottle of crispy Pinot Grigio that was perfect with the subtle flavors and flashes of spice.
We each tried a bowl of Signature Ramen including Basil Ramen, a unique basil pesto broth with spinach noodles garnished with chashu, tomato slices, spinach, onions and garlic chips. It was wonderful. We also tried a Donburi Rice bowl. The Spicy Tuna Don was a bit of enchanting spicy tuna served over jasmine or brown rice with avocado and Ikura (orange caviar). I was vacillating over who was my true love, rice or noodles?
The Vegetarian was not lacking anything sans meat with its house made vegetable broth served with spinach noodles and Japanese vegetables, shitake mushrooms and tofu. I had the Raku Ramen, a spicy bowl filled with premium Tonkosu ramen, with pork cutlet, corn bamboo shoots, scallions and Rayu chili oil. I had them add extra noodles and a fish cake, and it was a heavenly bowl.
We finished off sharing a Heart Attack with is a jalapeno sliced and cleaned then stuffed with spicy tuna and cream cheese and tempered, hot delicious and savory.
This is comfort food in its finest form. I have eaten here ten times since my first visit. I almost always order a bowl to go for dinner later. The service is friendly, though the ordering is confusing at first, both the counter and the cook will help you select what is flawless for your tastes. Raku Ramen is located at 1308 Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo; call them at (805) 439-3088.