Daly City in the summer time is like London in November. I left my house on a Sunday afternoon in August wearing shorts and a tee shirt because it was 85 degrees outside, and headed to Daly City to have ramen made by Noodle in a Haystack. By the time I arrived in Daly City, the temperature had dropped at least 25 degrees and I could barely see 20 feet in front of me. I parked in a residential neighborhood where every single house was exactly the same. They might have been painted different colors, but they were exactly the same. Street after street of them. I wondered a bit skeptically about what kind of ramen I was going to have while I searched for the right house, shivering in the mist.
As soon as I entered Yoko and Clint's house, I immediately felt at ease. They are both exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Clint lived in Tokyo for six years where he met Yoko. They moved back a few years ago and started making the ramen that Clint fell in love with in Japan. As this was my first Feastly dinner, I wasn't sure what to expect. Feastly dinners are often held in people's homes, and offered by a range of people from home cooks specializing in regional dishes to professionals building a reputation before establishing a stand alone restaurant. It was actually a lot of fun to meet seven new people and learn about them over a great meal.
I eat ramen all over the San Francisco Bay Area and all over the world. Japan is of course the best place to eat ramen, and the Bay Area and Los Angeles are probably the next best options. We are very lucky to have the ramen we have here, and Noodle in a Haystack is one of the best bowls of ramen I've had outside of Japan, and frankly even competes with the bowls in Japan.
Clint and Yoko source some key ingredients like yuzu and smoked fish powder from Japan. They have even reverse engineered a famous Japanese salad dressing called Pietro. They also take advantage of local ingredients like a blood orange oil from Monterey to lighten their chicken based ramen.
On the night I attended we started with their signature deviled egg with pickled daikon, smoked fish powder from Kyoto, fish row, chicken skin, and togarashi. What a great intro to our meal! It was familiar, but new. The fish powder provided smoke and umami and all the components were in great balance. It was very close to fishy, but didn't go cross the line. The egg was followed by nine hour sous vide pork belly and a refreshing arugula salad with their Pietro-like dressing, and then a spicy celery salad and a savory cucumber salad.
After the appetizers, the main bowl of ramen arrived. This isn't your typical, over the top, heavy tonkatsu (pork) based ramen. This was a shio ramen, meaning that the tare, or main seasoning that determines the type of ramen, is made from salt, and in this case, infused with dried shrimp and fish from Japan. The broth is a clear chicken stock and dashi, garnished with a delicious marinated onsen egg, scallions and garlic, crispy onions, yuzu, pink peppercorns, yuzu infused chicken fat, blood orange oil, brined chicken ham, and three salts (pink, sea and truffle). It is glorious! It has perfect balance and is not too heavy. Every component has been perfected, and when put together, they are all in balance. This isn't the tonkatsu ramen you may be used to, and that is a very good thing! Seats at Noodle in a Haystack are hard to come by, so reserve early and get ready to have some of the best ramen in the Bay Area. Brave the fog for a great time!