Review: Chonmage – San Rafael, CA

Chonmage Ramen on the left, and Samurai Ramen on the right

Neighborhood ramen spot has great vibe and good food, but inconsistent.

One of the most important qualities of a good restaurant is how consistent their cooking is. Are their dishes reliable, or do they change day to day, week to week, or from one cook to another, whoever might be cooking that day? Will flavors change from season to season? Maybe, and I would expect that kind of variation. But, for me to return more than once to a restaurant, they need to be both good and consistent.

We visited Chonmage on consecutive Thursdays. The first visit, the food was very good. We tried the Chonmage Ramen (miso broth), Samurai Ramen (shoyu broth), and Sasuke Ramen (tonkatsu broth). They offer two sizes of bowls, and the smaller size is great if you want to try a couple different dishes, which is what we did.

For me, the winner that first night was the shoyu broth – among the best I’ve ever had, bringing a smile to my face with each spoonful. However, the Samurai Ramen had thinner noodles in it, and it simply didn’t come together – that elusive act of the sum of the parts being more than the whole. The Chonmage Ramen, however, came together quite nicely, and was a very good bowl of ramen, as was the Sasuke Ramen.

Our second visit, I had high expectations for this place, ordering their Chonmage Ramen again, along with some sweet potato tempura and shrimp tempura. The ramen was between okay and good, and the tempura was only below mediocre. Nothing was bad, but nothing was good. The experience was disappointing, and left me wondering how they could have strayed so far in just a week.

I’ll go back to try it one more time, but I’m not excited about it. Overall, I’d give it only 2.5 stars (out of 5). For just the ramen, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.