About once a month Joey and I have what we call, "Movie Day." We see three or four movies (sometimes five) and then go out to dinner. In the past we really never knew where we would go and would end up someplace close to our house until we discovered Katana-Ya. This little gem of a restaurant is right near the movie complex and serves the best ramen I have had outside of Japan.
Now ramen holds a very special place for me in my Japanese experience. The first Japanese movie I ever saw was Tampopo, the first "noodle western" which was all about ramen. The first Japanese meal I had outside of sushi was ramen with Daisuke in Japan Town.
When I first moved to Japan I was certain my two semesters of Japanese would be enough to get me by. However, while I could easily say, "Makudonorudo wa doko desu ka? (Where is McDonald's?)" The only response I ever heard was, "Taka taka taka taka." No matter what the question, the response was, "Taka taka taka taka." To give credit to the Japanese, not once did I hear an annoyed, "Taka taka taka taka" a slow, "Ta ka ta ka ta ka ta ka" or a loud, "TAKA TAKA TAKA TAKA." Just always, "Taka taka taka taka."
I got my first job in a building with a food court in the basement. Naturally, I had a lunch break and the first time I went down there I had no idea what I was going to eat. Every restaurant had plastic food neatly displayed in their windows, but nothing looked familiar. The I saw it - RAMEN! Oh, I was an expert at ramen! I saw Tampopo, right? What was even better is that they had English on the food and I quickly found, "Ramen Set" which consisted of ramen, fried rice and fried chicken. I knew all I needed to do is add an "o" to set and say "kudasai (please)" and I would be on my way to a happy meal. I bravely went into the ramen shop and said, "Ramen setto kudasai." The waitress said, "Taka taka taka taka?" Oh dear, this is a question. So I said it with an annoyed tone, "Ramen setto kudasai." She said, "Taka taka taka taka?" I tried saying it slowly, "Ra men set to ku da sai." She replied, "Taka taka taka taka?" What was I doing wrong? So I then said loudly, "RAMEN SETTO KUDASAI." Guess what? She politely asked, "Taka taka taka taka?" This happened every time I ordered ramen until I finally made Daisuke go with me and asked him what she was saying. OH! "Do you want miso or shoyuu broth?" All I had to say was, "Miso kudasai." YAY! Success! For the next six months, ramen was the only thing I ate.
Now one would think I would be sick of ramen, but honestly no. During my entire stay in Japan ramen was one thing I could count on. When it was freezing cold in winter I could stop by the ramen shop and warm up. When it was hot I could order reimen (cold raman) and feel refreshed. Ramen was part of my life and I really thought I would have to give it up and then I found Katana-Ya.
Katana-Ya is a small little place downtown. It can't sit no more than 30 people and there is always a wait. A wait that is well worth it. Joey and I always start with a bit of non-filtered sake. It's rather sweet and refreshing and gives us a feeling only sake gives. They have many types of ramen, but my favorite is the Butter Corn Ramen. Honestly it is simply delicious. Of course I always get miso broth. For sides we get karage (fried chicken) and fried rice. Both are out of this world. Finally, I can get my Ramen Setto right here in San Francisco!!!
Katana-Ya really is as close as I can get to Osaka. The food is fantastic and while not a place to bring a date or for a special occasion, it's an amazing destination for the best ramen you will find in San Francisco. It certainly is our destination after Movie Day. I guess ramen is still playing a big part of my life.
Posted by Sean