It’s been awhile now since the nice old ramen master who ran Do-Henkotsu retired. In a sea of me-too tonkotsu and shoyu ramen shops which have popped up in the last several years, his version of the Tokushima ramen, from a southern prefecture in Japan, stood out with its dark, bold flavor and the unusual bacon-cut pork or spare rib. Add to it the more traditional chuka-style (中華; Chinese-style) noodles air-shipped from Japan, along with one of the best stir-fried rice renditions, you had the makings of one of the best ramen shops in the bay area. But now, all that is left is the memory of a once great ramen shop run by a great Japanese couple. Ok, enough reminiscing.
What took its place is a new ramen shop called Kahoo (春風) Ramen. The ramen chefs here are a combination of an older man and a young man. When I visited, only the young chef was working. Not wanting to make several trips, I ordered the pot stickers and fried chicken appetizers. And for the ramen, I went for the house special shoyu ramen. I did not try the shio ramen, another favorite, because I like my ramen flavor strong. And of course, as usual, I asked for extra noodles as well.
The ramen was the first to come out, personally delivered by the young chef. He probably wanted to take a look at who’s the fat guy ordering so much food for himself. The bowl strangely did not look very large and the amount of noodles also did not look like much. I asked the chef whether this was the shoyu with extra noodle, and he nodded and said yes. So I started to dig into it and about a minute later, I notice that the waitress and the chef were conversing and looking over at my direction. At the same time we all realized that I was given the regular shoyu ramen which the person next to me had ordered. A few quick glances later and the chef promised that my extra noodles would be on its way. No words were exchanged, as we all knew clearly that withholding extra noodles from me would be a bad thing.
The broth had a good shoyu flavor with a tone with sweetness. I tasted the broth spoon by spoon until the last drop to finally realize the familiar flavor is very close to the broth used for udon noodles. One can taste the combination of pork, chicken, and fish being used to create the deep flavor. It can definitely compare to some of the shoyu ramen that I’ve had in Tokyo.
The noodles seemed very thin compared to the traditional curly ramen noodles. It resembled the Cantonese style thin egg noodles the most. At first bite, the noodles were of good, hard texture. However, after the chef handed me the extra noodles, I noticed that the noodles in my bowl had already softened noticeably compared to the fresh noodles. However, it did not turn limp and kept its q-ness better that I had expected. I noticed that those who ordered the miso ramen were given a different, thicker noodle. I would assume the reason is that the thin noodle probably complemented the lighter shoyu broth better.
The pork was a different cut than the usual flat chasu. Instead, it is more like a kakuni, stewed-pork cut. I really liked it as it was super tender and had great flavor. It is comparable to the best that Gen Ramen used to offer before they closed.
The rest of the ingredients included the standard half-cooked egg, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and another unidentified green leafy vegetable. The egg was cooked to good running consistency. Overall, the combination of great pork, very good broth, and good noodles makes Kahoo’s shoyu ramen one of the top contenders in bay area, especially for shoyu ramen.
Compared overall to all ramen types, however, I still prefer the even richer, more full-bodied flavor of Halu Ramen down the street. Kahoo’s broth is a little bit too similar to what I can get in a bowl of udon soup. When I eat ramen, I want real, full-bodied flavor of the tonkotsu broth and not the light shoyu based broth, or I would just go eat Udon. (Grade: A- )
The pot stickers had a very thin wrapper. It was fried nicely with crispy skin. The fillings were made of pork and vegetables and had a good consistency and flavor. Good to order for those not fulfilled by only noodles. (Grade: B+ )
The fried chicken came with several large pieces. The breading was light and crispy, although somehow it was fried very dark, perhaps due to the oil. The dark meat inside was marinated and stayed juicy. It was good but nothing too special. (Grade: B)
Kahoo Ramen (Next to the Mitsuwa Market)4330 Moorpark Avenue
San Jose, CA 95129