Regular readers of my blog know how much I love ramen and particularly tonkotsu ramen - a milky pork broth made with lots of collagen. So when I found out there was a tonkotsu specialty restaurant mere blocks from my house I got very excited.
We were not disappointed on arrival, this is the best and most authentic ramen joint in San Francisco today. Most ramen places in the Bay Area have either great soup or great noodles but not both. Yamadaya is the restaurant that is the exception to prove the rule. A simple Japanese style menu with a handful of options and multiple additions focuses on high quality but simple comfort food fare. Yamadaya has become our "go to" ramen restaurant and we've eaten repeatedly since finding it. Given our Japantown location this is a real sign - with all the choice of noodle restaurants this is where we choose repeatedly.
The secret to the gooey thick soup is printed on the wall - masses of pork bones are boiled down for their collagen for 20 hours to produce delicious fatty goodness.
The decor is simple with wooden booths and shared tables very reminiscent of Osaka hole in the wall eateries.
Yona Yona Ale $9USD
Yamadaya features a range of imported and craft beers on tap and in bottles / cans. Standard fare like Sapporo and Kirin are available but also this Yona Yona Ale, Ebisu, Koshihikari Eichigo and more. The beers are rotated on a regular basis so look for something new each time. Be careful to watch the price tag of the beers since rarer options like this beer are hefty in price. Mass imports like Sapporo are much more affordable.
Torii karaage $6.95USD
Appetizers like this fried chicken dish are cheap and good quality. Good quality meat is used, the oil is fresh and the dishes come out piping hot. Healthier fare like Miso Soup ($2USD) and Edamame ($2.95USD) are also available and all go great with a beer.
Teishoku add on set - curry rice and salad $3.95USD
Order your ramen as a teishoku (meal set) and you can have a choice of small salad or rice and a small serving of a main dish like dumplings, curry, spicy tuna or karaage.
Tonkotsu ramen $9.25USD
The 'standard' tonkotsu ramen at Yamadaya comes with half an egg, a slice of chashu roast pork and vegetables. Tokyo style soy tonkotsu and kotteri style with garlic oil can also be ordered as variants.
All the tonkotsu dishes come with thin style Japanese wheat noodles common in tonkotsu. If you're looking for thick noodles similar to what you would get in a miso ramen order "thick type noodles" for an extra 50c. The money is worth it the thick noodles are chewy and delicious, just the right level of al dente.
Cheese ramen $12.95USD
Plain tonkotsu broth and noodles are served with a mountain of shaved fresh parmesan cheese that melts into a gooey mess with the pork fat. I recommend adding a fizzy drink and some vegetables to cut through all that fat. Great as a comforting but slightly bland meal for the sick.
Spicy Tonkotsu $9.75USD
This is my go to meal when eating noodles and really hard to get past how excellent it is. Spicy tonkotsu (level 3 hot hot hot!) is served with a fermented chili miso paste, eggs and pork.
I always add the thick noodles and if you're extra hungry add the Yamadaya Special to any dish with both chashu and kakuni (belly) pork, extra egg, seaweed and bamboo shoots. My only wish is that they would do this dish as a tsukemen (dipping noodles) since their only tsukemen has fish based broth which I think negates the point of going to a tonkotsu specialist.
Unlike many Japanese restaurants there is also a vegan and vegetarian option made with salt or soy milk. Bento boxes and donburi rice dishes are also available and suitable for children but I always recommend eating the house specialty so go for the noodles.
Service is as you might expect in a high turn over Japanese restaurant, fast efficient service but minimal on English and niceties. The restaurant is wildly popular on Friday / Saturday nights and during Japantown / Filmore Street festivals, I recommend eating early (~5pm) to avoid waiting. Highly recommended, definitely our choice of the Japantown eateries.
1728 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Casual noodle eatery and tonkotsu ramen specialty restaurant