I don't consider myself to be much of a food writer, but I can fully appreciate when someone tries to capitalize on the menu item du jour. The thing about food trends lately is that they are just that — trends. If you're not the one who came up with an item (or at least managed to hype it the best) then you just look like you're making a cheap knockoff, no matter how good your Fauxnuts are.
In the case of the ramen burger we had a marginalized menu item that already existed being thrust into the internet spotlight. The ramen burger at Nombe in San Francisco was on their menu before they started cooking them up on the street in the Mission last month, but it took an al fresco food court in Brooklyn to make it something that people would line up for. At a certain point, it became more about eating a thing for the foodie points than about a hamburger that actually tasted good and was practical. What I'm saying is: the ramen burger was a good idea that literally fell apart once it got into my hands. Cheeseburger ramen was not that. Cheeseburger ramen was amazing.
First of all, let me say that I'm already a fan of Hapa Ramen. Chef Richie Nakano and company have been popping up at the Ferry Building for years and, more recently, at Wing Wings in the Lower Haight on Tuesday nights. All told, I think the bowl of ramen I had yesterday was at least the fifth or sixth I've had there and I've never been let down by one. I'm also unapologetic about my love for ridiculous hamburgers.
That said, no burger topping could ever compare to what goes into a bowl of cheeseburger ramen. The ingredient list includes:
- Beef broth made with veal bones
- Early girl tomatoes
- Pickled mustard seeds
- Carmelized onions and garlic
- Glazed porter
- Soy sauce
- Sriracha ketchup
- Whipped lardo
- Chorizo gravy cooked in chicken fat
- Iberico ham
- Housemade pickles
- Housemade, 6-month kimchi
- Crispy pig ear
Then of course, there are the noodles, a poached egg and the coup de grace: the burger itself, which was a simple slider-sized affair infused with cheese and jalapeños. After everything else that went into the bowl, we almost forgot the burger was even in there, lurking amongst a tangle of toothsome noodles. (The pig ear, sliced in thin strips like short little porky noodles was a real highlight.) In a bowl of meat parts, the burger really tied everything together thematically, but the real beef came from the broth.
To say the broth was rich doesn't even begin to do it justice. This is soup literally made from the the bones of young animals. It contains parts from no less than four different beasts. It was rich in the same way that Kanye West is rich: everyone already knows it's rich, but it doesn't give a fuck what you think about it being rich. Putting a healthy dollop of Uni in there is like marrying Kim Kardashian: It's a little weird and a little surprising, but it all makes sense afterwards when you're full of broth and beer and you feel like a pregnant couch.
A straightforward bowl of cheeseburger ramen cost $13 last night. Maruchan diehards will scoff at that, but it's a justified price I've been willing to pay for a bowl of Hapa's complex ramen on multiple occasions. That said, with all the add-ons, my admittedly absurd bowl came out to three times that: a staggering $36 total. Which is obscene, really, but I mean that in the best way possible. For as much as I wanted to dismiss this as a bowl of stunt ramen, the decadent broth, the cheeky little cheeseburger, and even just one or two of those add-ons makes this a bowl of soup worth telling the internet about.
Hapa Ramen is available Tuesdays and Thursday's at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday nights at Wing Wings (422 Haight Street) and Friday's at Off the Grid Fort Mason from 5 to 9 p.m.