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First Bite: Ken Ken Ramen

San Francisco is unabashedly noodle-centric, mostly thanks to all the artisanal pastas being rolled and cut in kitchens like Flour + Water, A16, and Perbacco.  Close behind SF's Italian obsession, though, is the city's love for ramen. Last month, chef Takahiro Hori took his Ken Ken Ramen pop-up and went brick-and-mortar in a new permanent location in the Mission. 

If there's a wait (and there appears to be most of the time since the place is open only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to start), the bar up front serves beer, sake, and wine, but most orders are for a creamy boba tea made with Straus milk from the Boba Guys. Once seated at the low kitchen counter or one of the 20 or so wood-planked tables in the white dining room, ordering is simple.  Ramen comes one of five ways: in a rich white-red miso with pork stock, a soy sauce base with pork stock, a clearer salt base with pork stock, or in a vegan broth with or without a perfectly soft-boiled egg. Some would argue that ramen's all about the broth, and on that point, Ken Ken does well. Piled high on top is tender pork, baby corn, sprouts, nori, and bok choy. The ramen itself, made in house with flour imported from Hokkaido, is slender and springy. Fish for the noodles with chopsticks, and then trade them in for a spoon to slurp up the broth and egg yolk spilling over the veggies.

3378 18th St.