Table Talk: Japanese Brunch and Ramen, Holiday Specials, Crab!

Wintertime means it's spicy tori tantanmen time at Ramenwell. (tablehopper.com)

There’s a new Japanese-inspired brunch you’ll want to try, and the Mission has a cozy ramen spot (with incredible taro soft-serve!). The holidays are in full swing with Dungeness crab specials, chiles rellenos en nogada, and special lunch service at Bix and Campton Place Restaurant.

Brunch Item Alert: Soft-Shell Crab Benedict! And Other Japanese-Inspired Dishes.

Asahiru 
At Nabe
1325 9th Ave., San Francisco
Sat–Sun 9:30am–2:30pm (subject to change)

Soft-shell crab Benedict at Asahiru. (tablehopper.com)

There’s a new weekend pop-up happening in Nabe in the Inner Sunset: meet Asahiru, a Japanese-inspired brunch from chef Hiro Makiyama (who has returned from training in Japan for three years) and Alex Tao. Their signature item is their brilliant soft-shell crab Benedict, with yuzu-infused hollandaise and a pop of bright green flavor from the shiso garnish, plus a side salad. I love how they griddled and pressed the English muffin, and the poached egg yolk and hollandaise will run into the country potatoes on the plate as well (so decadent). One crab is plenty ($18), or get two for $27, or three for $36 (but that would be incredibly rich). There’s also the option to get their panko-fried, thick-cut Canadian bacon as the base ($14 or $18 for two), or a side for $3 (do it).

Denver-style tamago soft scramble. (tablehopper.com)

Other options include a tamago soft-scramble (they use dashi in the eggs), and they cleverly subbed green bell pepper with shishito peppers in their Denver-style scramble, $15. There’s also a kimcheese version.

Thick-cut Canadian bacon katsu--you want this. (tablehopper.com)

There are many side items, from pork or chicken katsu, croquettes, and we enjoyed the fried pumpkin special. Any of these would be a great addition to the vegetarian breakfast curry ($8), which looked so good — I’m coming back for that! You can also indulge in the lunchier side of brunch with the Wagyudon ($12), with wagyu beef and onions simmered in a mildly sweet au jus over rice.  The name asahiru comes from asa, which means morning, and hiru, which means noon, so you can decide where you fit best on the spectrum.

Warm Up with New Ramen at Ramenwell, But Don't Miss the Taro Soft-Serve

Ramenwell
3378 18th St., San Francisco

The back dining room at Ramenwell. (tablehopper.com)

Cooler nights have arrived, which means a bowl of steamy ramen is especially welcome. There’s a new and friendly ramen spot in the Mission that took over the former Ken Ken Ramen space called Ramenwell. The place has a new and sleek look, with groovy lighting,  a front bar, upbeat music, and the back has a counter flanking the kitchen (perfect for solo diners) and tables too. The chef-owner is Chicago transplant Harold Jurado (Yusho, Chizakaya), who offers a menu of creative and non-traditional ramen bowls, from 20-hour pork tonkotsu to tori paitan (creamy chicken) to a vegetarian mushroom shoyu, all for $15 and under. 

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I went for the spicy tori tantanmen, with creamy chicken broth, spicy miso chicken tantan, bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, and spicy sesame oil. Chicken and turkey are ground and cured overnight with miso, giving a rich and fuller flavor. What really stood out is the golden egg, cured with sake, soy, mirin, garlic, and ginger — it’s a bright yellow yolk, creamy and tangier than others. Many ramen places serve eggs that are still cold, but here, the temperature was just right. 

The noodles are a definite al dente — but it means they hold up until you’re at the very end of your bowl without getting mushy (the chef sources them from Hawaii). At first, I thought the bowl was a little heavy on the oil, but as you start digging in, it all comes together in a satisfying way.

I also had a taste of their holiday special ramen, which featured the ends of barbecue pork belly that they have 4505 Burgers and BBQ smoke for them. The ends are chopped up with chile oil and serve with the tori paitan broth. It was like a smoky love child of barbecue and ramen and you really should order it. It wasn’t too fatty either — they use a pork belly that is less fatty than most.

It doesn't matter how cold out it is, get the taro soft-serve. (tablehopper.com)

There are some other small plates on the menu (the wagyu tataki and hamachi with bone marrow are reportedly a big hit), a varied selection of sake, American and Japanese beers, cider, and some wines that interestingly aren’t listed with a producer but okay, and the photo finish is the taro soft-serve. Don’t let the matcha tempt you, it’s all about the captivating taro, which is earthy, creamy, and rich. Loved the fresh and crisp vanilla cone, what a delight for $5.

Dungeness Crab Specials at Gott's Roadside

Gott’s Roadside
At all Gott's Bay Area and Wine Country locations

Two Dungeness crab specials at Gott's Roadside. (tablehopper.com)

Dungeness crab season is in full swing and Gott’s Roadside is now offering their seasonal crab specials at all Bay Area locations through January 31, 2019 (contingent on the crab season). The Dungeness crab is sourced from local purveyors and piled into their Dungeness Crab Sandwich with housemade Meyer lemon aioli, green onions, and romaine lettuce (yeah, it’s back!) on a toasted brioche bun ($19.99). 

But then there’s the Dungeness Crab & Bay Shrimp Louie, with sliced avocado, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, lemon wedge, and a side of secret sauce, all on crisp romaine lettuce lightly tossed in lemon-dijon vinaigrette (also $19.99). Yeah, it’s great to get avocado AND crab in the winter.

And just in case you’re in the mood for a holiday treat, you can also get their new egg nog shake (available until December 31, 2018), made with organic Three Twins egg nog ice cream, and hand-spun to order with Clover Egg Nog ($6.99–$7.99).

A Holiday Tradition: Chiles Rellenos en Nogada

Doña Tomás
5004 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

The annual holiday special of chiles rellenos en nogada at Doña Tomás. (Kristen Loken)

One of the best parts about the holidays are all the special dishes that come around, and Doña Tomás in Oakland will be serving a customer favorite and annual tradition: chiles rellenos en nogada. You get a roasted poblano chile stuffed with cheese, yams, and herbs, covered in a walnut-cream sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds! The dish is served with black beans and housemade corn tortillas and costs $23. Be sure to swing by during the month of December to enjoy it.

Special Holiday Lunch Service at Bix and Campton Place

Bix
56 Gold St., San Francisco
Campton Place Restaurant
340 Stockton St., San Francisco

Holiday lunch perfection is the Bix burger, fries, and martini. (tablehopper.com)

One of the most festive places to celebrate the holidays is Bix, which recently celebrated 30 years of pouring us strong martinis. Cheers to that! A fun tradition they have is to offer holiday lunch service throughout the week instead of their usual Friday-only service. From now until December 21, they are open every weekday for lunch starting at 11:30am, except December 14, when they will be closed for a private event. Be sure to make a reservation. And don’t miss the potato pillows with caviar!

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The elegant Campton Place Restaurant is right on Union Square, and they decided to open for holiday lunch service Thu–Sat from 11:30am–1:45pm through January. Chef Srijith Gopinathan — who just maintained one Michelin star for the restaurant — has put together a menu with dishes like chestnut soup with grilled beech mushrooms, Asian pear, Cognac, and salted boondi; guinea hen “samosa” with tomato butter, fuyu persimmon, and frisée salad; and Maine lobster with coconut curry, romanesco, puffed black rice, and potatoes. For the full menu, please see here. You can walk off the lunch while holiday shopping in Union Square.

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