What is local California ramen? Do you try and recreate something traditional from Japan, or do you opt for a different style using more accessible ingredients?
I sat down with Chef Noriyuki Sugie, aka Iron Nori, to hear his approach to making ramen in the Golden State.
Chef Nori, a classically trained French chef from Ibaraki, Japan, knows soup. And the best soup comes from the best ingredients, obviously. It's this simple logic that took his ramen away from the traditional pork and chicken stock, opting for beef. California has some of the best cows in the world, happy cows come from California and all that, so why not capitalize on that.
This is a superb lunch, though I'm sure the majority of ramen enthusiasts would be quick to comment. The topping choices, oxtail or cheek or tongue, are about as unique as the umami foam on top. The recommended oxtail is the clear winner, and our window-side seat drew some looks. One passerby even went so far as to ask me for the left-over bone, for his dog I presume. If you are averse to dealings with the Mission crowd, maybe a counter seat would be better.
The ramen, though only $10 a bowl at lunchtime, failed to draw a crowd on a weekday. This may be due to the shop itself, a cavernous old diner that is a little daunting to enter. Be brave, you won't be disappointed.
At night, Nombe turns into more of an 居酒屋(izakaya), with emphasis on the 酒(sake). Owner Gil Payne took a moment to show me the dictionary-sized sake list. Impressive to say the least. Frequent tasting and pairing events seem to be going on here regularly, do check that out if you have a chance. Even if you prefer your 酒 served hot and dropped into a cold beer, you might just learn something about Japan's national drink.
Check site for hours