Yamadaya Ramen Restaurant Japantown | Tasting Table San Francisco

When the flavors of pork and black garlic ignite

For years, purists–"ramenistas," if you will–have pooh-poohed Japantown's noodle shops, especially in comparison to those in San Mateo and San Jose.

But Ramen Yamadaya, which opened three weeks back, is the latest indication of San Francisco's Ramen Row revival.

The first San Francisco branch of a chain that originated in America's Ramen Holy Land (aka Los Angeles), Yamadaya specializes in tonkotsu broth made from pork bones boiled for 20 hours to extract every flavorful molecule.

Yamadaya is still getting its act together. A central communal table is still missing, the service is undertrained and the roast pork is undercooked.

But the two key elements–broth and noodles–in the restaurant's signature black garlic kotteri ramen ($9) beat any other bowl in Japantown.

Without coming across as sticky or fatty, the milky pork broth has a feral funk to it, and a swirl of black garlic oil floating on top gives it the aroma of roast pork pulled straight out of the oven.

Yamadaya's skinny noodles come to the table at peak chewiness—you've got 10 minutes before they soften up.

So slurp fast.