1831 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 341-0488,
In many Asian cultures, noodles are eaten at the start of a new year because they symbolize longevity. So I was ecstatic when my friend Eric suggested we grab some ramen last Friday at the newly opened Ryu Jin Ramen House by my cottage. Also, I'm not sure about you but I've been running my heater non-stop for a few weeks now. It's been incredibly cold outside...well, cold by Sacramento standards (my parents who live out of state would consider our winter weather a heat wave). Anyhow when the temperature begins to drop, I start craving a big steaming bowl of pho or ramen to warm me up.
Located in the 19th Street Safeway shopping center, the warmly hued and brightly lit Ryu Jin is brought to us by the same folks who run Akebono over on Freeport. The ramen-ya took over the space that used to occupy a less-than-stellar Mexican food joint and before that I'm pretty sure it was a place that dished out Greek food. Eric, Melanie and I got there early, about 530pm, and I'm glad we did- Ryu Jin fills up fast! For appetizers, we ordered the gyoza and takoyaki. The gyoza were okay- they were pan-fried but overcooked, a bit on the oily side and the filling lacked ginger. The takoyaki (small balls of flavored batter mixed with diced octopus) were a bit heavier than ones I've had in the past. I've eaten them in Japan and have made them myself before; Ryu Jin's version of takoyaki was much denser, creamier and tasted like there was maybe some sort of dairy component added to the mix. They did garnish the order with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), pickled red ginger bits and the traditional takoyaki brown sauce which I liked; however, they also squirted on a lot of a mayo-based sauce that was unnecessary and gloppy.
For dinner, Eric and Melanie ordered the Aka Tonkatsu Ramen and I opted for the Shoyu Ramen (I always use Shoyu Ramen as my standard for ramen places). Ryu Jin's Shoyu Ramen broth lacked that kick of umami- it was not overly oily or excessively salty, but not really rich or flavorful enough to make you want to slurp it down. The noodles (though they didn't taste freshly made) were cooked al dente and were nice and snappy. There were plenty of noodles in the bowl and I also liked that they didn't nickel and dime you on the extras...my order came with menma (bamboo slices, aji-tama (seasoned soft-boiled egg), black mushroom bits, cabbage, BBQ pork slices and a slice of naruto (pink and white fishcake). If you want to add other sides (corn, wakame, additional noodles) , the cost is a reasonable extra $.50 to $2.
Service was friendly and quick. The waitresses were on top of their game- coming by several times to check on our orders, clear plates and offer soda/water refills. It's great that they're so efficient because that place gets crowded quick and there's really nowhere to wait. As we ate, I noticed the front entry way was crammed with customers much like the anchovies in the toroidal tank at the aquarium, all trying to make their way to the front or waiting. It made me feel a wee bit claustrophobic just watching it.
My final impression of Ryu Jin was that it was "maa maa" (the Japanese phrase for "so-so"). The ramen didn't knock my socks off but it was decent and would quell a ramen craving, however, not enough to warrant waiting a lengthy period of time for a table. In the future, I'd probably opt to order a to-go order or visit their sister restaurant on Freeport as it also serves the same ramen minus the crowd. It is nice though to see more ramen-yas opening up around Sacramento and being embraced by diners...hopefully, a few late night yakitori stands will follow. ;)