2675 24th Street
Sacramento, CA 95818
Bowl of Dreams Archive
When you think of Sacramento, you might never think of ramen. That is, until you look closely and realize that ramen is ingrained in Sac-RAMEN-to!
About a year and a half ago, Shoki Ramen House was featured in an article published by the Sacramento Bee called Bowl of Dreams. Coincidentally, I was also interviewed for that article without really knowing exactly what it was about. As it turned out, the article mainly focused on Shoki's owner/chef, Yasushi Ueyama, and the heart and soul of the local ramen scene. And since reading that article, I've been dying to try Ueyama-san's passionate "ippai"--a comforting bowl served out of a building that looks more like grandma's house than an actual restaurant.
Concluding a short flight from LA to SF and an eighty mile drive from SF to Sac, my first priority of business after being greeted and seated by the friendly staff was...to use the restroom (tmi?...haha). That's where I found the aforementioned article posted up behind the restroom door.
Shoki's quaint, little dining area embraces a cozy welcome with barely enough room for the line of patrons waiting at the door. There's a total of six tables with at most nineteen seats--a true neighborhood-ramen-ya-feel. The adjacent wall showcases any specials, sets, or upcoming creations (e.g. Soy Milk Ramen & Tomato Sauce Ramen) along with a giant dry/erase board solely devoted to explaining Shoki's concept and mission.
Rather than repeat it word for word, here's a closer look at the giant dry/erase board. Don't forget to read about the Double Soup!
Here you see Ueyama-san (yellow shirt) and his trusted assistant hard at work during today's opening rush. (I realized after taking this picture that the kitchen was actually bigger than the dining area.)
Tantan Men: The first ramen I tried today was the "Specialized" Tantan Men. It's basically their original shoyu ramen (see later) mixed with a homemade chili oil and topped with goma-miso minced meat, menma, moyashi, kaiware, negi, and seaweed. The spice levels range from mild to super (I chose regular) and you can also select from three different sizes (chose regular again).
Mmmm...did I mention the goma-miso minced meat? This Tantan Men was outstanding! If I can compare it at all to something I've had before, it would come close to challenging Shisen Ramen for the Tantan Title. Seriously, this minced meat thingy mixed with the chili-oiled-shoyu-base tasted amazing! After traveling this far just to spend an hour eating, I was NOT disappointed. And this was only the first bowl!
The noodles come direct from the Yamachan factory based in San Francisco so there's not much to get excited about here, but they still tasted pretty good and paired well with the soup.
Shoyu Ramen: After countless months of eating soul-less shoyu ramen, I've finally found an impressive batch in, of all places, Sacramento. It was truly an interesting experience almost too hard to describe. I could taste its boldness, yet it came across light and refreshing with a hint of power. Could this be due to the "good" oil they mentioned on the wall? I don't know, but it's nothing short of magical. The noodles may bring the magic down a notch, but like before, it was still a good pairing.
Shio Ramen: Before paying the bill, I decided to try a mini bowl of the last ramen on the menu: Shio Ramen. Damn, is that bowl tiny or is that chashu ginormous? I'll get back to the chashu in a bit, but this shio base was also quite the refreshment. You can definitely taste the ocean (in a good way) and the shio-dare really stood out. It's hard to believe there's no MSG, but that just goes to show you how hard Ueyama-san works to bring out the natural umami-flavors.
Now back to this thinly sliced, tender piece of break-apart, juicy chashu. It honestly reminded me of Kobe ramen and what do you know, Ueyama-san is from Kobe! Shocking!
After my lunch, Ueyama-san was gracious enough to give me a tour of his kitchen. He showed me practically everything, including the three stage process that goes into his soup. I also learned that he trained at Ramen Halu in San Jose before opening Shoki (in addition to what he learned as a professional chef in Japan). I was even invited back during his lunch break, but unfortunately I had to head back to the city (darn!). Ueyama-san arigato~!! I'll be back someday! Thanks for putting the ramen in Sacramento. It's only fitting that your name literally translates to Top of the Mountain!
Oh yeah, on my way home I drove past the State Capitol just so I could say I've been there. After all this was my first visit to Sacramento. :P