January 11, 2007


Living in the Bay Area, we are blessed in so many ways. We have dynamic cities set in beautiful natural surroundings, stunningly world-class views from hilltops, great weather, and all the usual suspects — but it’s not too hard to guess that one of Short Exact’s favorite aspects of living in the Bay Area is having the privilege of experiencing on a daily basis a great diversity of the world’s cuisines. One can travel a short distance and yet sample the food from every continent (except for perhaps Antarctica — we aren’t familiar with Antarctic cuisine). As food-obsessed as we may be in the Bay Area, our dining scene, as any will, has its strengths and its weaknesses. San Francisco, with hundreds of restaurants from almost every corner of Asia, has a great many Japanese restaurants; and yet, oddly, very few of these restaurants offer what Short Exact would consider to be a convincingly delicious bowl of ramen. In the greater Bay Area, one can point to a few superior ramenya (restaurants that specialize in ramen), in particular, the clusters in San Mateo and in the South Bay. Although quality ramen joints in this area are sparse, there are still a few nice places in San Francisco proper to get ramen, and Katana-ya is one of our favorites.

On our last visit to Katana-ya, we ordered a miso ramen:


Katana-ya offers some degree of customizability with the soup bowls. You can order a shoyu (soy), shio (salt), or miso ramen, and in addition, you specify the level of richness or heaviness of the broth. The lighter assari broth uses chicken stock, while the richer kotteri broth uses both chicken and pork stock. You can also add extras to the dish, such as kimchee or spicy negi (green onion). The ramen bowl pictured above is a miso ramen with the richer kotteri broth, with extra spicy negi added. Our bowl of ramen was not transcendental, but it was still very good. The broth was deep and rich, though also more oily than we would have preferred. The noodles were pleasantly chewy and al dente and remained so until we finished the bowl; they did not become excessively mushy, even towards the end. However, the presentation of the bowl, as you see in the above picture, was rather sloppy, and the spicy negi did very little other than to add a bit of spicy bite to a small fraction of the soup bowl contents. Despite these flaws, we did still enjoy the ramen.

Katana-ya specializes in ramen, so it is really the dish to order here. They offer sushi, but it’s not the strong suit of this particular restaurant, and the selection consists of basic, standard options. We’ve had the ramen on many occasions, but never any sushi, prior to writing this review. For the sake of completeness of the review, we thought we would try just a quick bite of sushi, in this case, a pair of hamachi nigiri:


As expected, this was not spectacular. The rice was hard and tasteless, and the fish exhibited none of the rich flavor or smooth melting texture that characterizes the best hamachi. If it’s sushi you’re after, there are better places (even around the Union Square or Nob Hill area) to get it. The draw at Katana-ya is really the ramen, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy this restaurant if you stick to their specialty.

Possibly best of all, Katana-ya is open late: until 2:00 am every night, making it a superb place to satisfy to your late-night ramen cravings. With its convenient location, reasonable prices, friendly service, generous hours, and tasty renditions of ramen and other Japanese comfort foods, Katana-ya is a great asset to the neighborhood.



430 Geary Street (between Mason St. and Taylor St.)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.771.1280
Hours: Mon 4:30 pm – 2:00 am; Tues-Fri 11:30 am – 2:00 am; Sat-Sun 12:00 noon – 2:00 am.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Union Square

How to get there: Muni lines 2, 3, 4, 27, 30, 31, 38, 45, 76, F, J, K, L, M, N, T, and the Powell street cable car lines. Powell BART/Muni subway station is 4 blocks away.


  1. I used to work in that area, and there was a little ramen house there I loved, but they went out and the building was demolished to build a new hotel. Always good to know of downtown chow.

  2. I recently invaded your nearby territory of Berkeley and was upset with the food. I expcet you to deliver a moltov cocktail in my stead.

  3. Customizable ramen sounds right up my alley. Although I’ve tried sushi outside of Japantown, I have never ventured away from Japantown in search of ramen. Sounds like you made a great find!

    When I read your blog, I wish I was more adventurous in trying different cuisines. SF really is a culinarily diverse city. We should try Antartic cuisine together!

    Also, thanks for your support on that I post I did about One Market. I called the head manager there, and he told me, “You were indeed overlooked for the sides on the skate.” But, I have yet to hear back from him about how anything will be remedied, if at all.

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