On Saturday I visited Ramen 101, located right next door to Century Theaters at Blue Oaks and Lonetree in Rocklin. This was my first time visiting since May of 2020. I remember sitting at a table outside and it was so surreal. The normally packed parking lot was basically empty and there was barely a sound aside from the light traffic on Lonetree and some birds (see video below). I had found the spot and eaten there early in the month and visited one more time a few weeks later. Today marks visit #3. I have been eagerly looking forward to this one, since in the mean time I had discovered Fukumi and have wanted to compare the two.
They have about 15 locations, of which 3 are in the Sacramento area and the rest are all in the Bay Area. The nearby locations are in Rocklin, Sacramento and Elk Grove. Sounds like there might be one coming to Rancho Cordova soon as well, according to a co-worker. Coincidentally interesting factoid – the Antioch location is located on a street called Lone Tree, much like our Rocklin location on Lonetree. Conspiracy? Maybe. I’m willing to accept that a time-traveling Delorean ran over a second tree on each of these roads in the past. But I digress, on with the post!
I arrived just after 11:30am to a nearly packed house. It was only during a few brief moments during my visit that everyone cleared out, I got my opportunity to snap a photo of the dining room, and then it filled back up again almost immediately. The place seems to have a following. I waited in line for a few minutes behind someone and skimmed the menu. My target was a Tonkatsu-style ramen to compare directly with my favorite bowl from Fukumi. And there it was, simply named “Tonkatsu Ramen” (roasted pork, boiled egg, Kikurage Mushroom, bamboo shoots, fresh green onion, sprouts, fish cake)[$12.95]. I picked that out and added corn [$1] and roasted garlic [$0-1?] to get a bit closer to what my Fukumi bowl is typically like. Note: the menu showed that the garlic add on should be $1, however on my receipt the line item showed $0. Also, they were out of bamboo shoots today.
On my first visit I had also picked out the Unagi rice bowl to check out something additional (photo at end). Today I went with the Rice Masubi [$5.95]. Interestingly, they also offer a bunch of Hawaiian BBQ options, which I completely missed on my previous visits. I might have to return and check some of these out later. I finished my order off with a fountain drink [$2.95] (they also have a small handful of bottled options including beer, tea and sparkling water).
I snagged a table and filled my cup at the soda fountain. I had barely sat down and organized my now slightly ridiculous collection of gear (for those interested, I just added a page with info on what I use here) when my ramen was brought out. The Spam Masubi followed about 4 minutes later.
Visible at the top of my bowl was green onions, bean sprouts, roasted garlic, pork chashu and the Kikurage mushrooms. A tiny bit of corn was peaking out and the tip of 2 fish cakes were also just above the broths surface.
I love that they roast entire cloves of garlic here. I was struck by the visual difference in the chashu compared to Fukumi and it led me down a small rabbit hole googling if all Chashu are created equally. Seems that it can be pork belly or shoulder. Fukumi is clear that their chasu is pork belly. Ramen 101 simply calls it Roasted Pork Chashu. This pork was delicious, if not quite as melt-in-your mouth tender as Fukumi’s chashu.
The Kikurage mushrooms stood out to me as well. I recently had these mushrooms, also known as Wood Ear Mushrooms, for the first time when I made a Korean dish called Japchae and had to seek them out at KP Market in Rancho Cordova. I’ve never actually seen them in a restaurant before today. They have a slightly rubbery texture, but not chewy, and not a whole lot of flavor. Not the most appetizing description, I know, but I do think they’re an interesting addition to this bowl.
Getting into it, the bowl was nice and hot and filled with noodles just below the surface. The noodles were al dente, compared to Fukumi’s noodles which are noticeably more tender. The broth was savory and a little salty. Considerably less intense than Fukumi’s, but still quite good. Down towards the bottom I found the whole soft boiled egg. The fish cakes were an interesting little treat. I’m not actually sure if I’ve ever had these before. They were very similar in texture to the boiled egg white, soft and tender. What flavor they had was totally overwhelmed by the rest of the bowl though. I will note that you have a selection of spice levels for the bowls. I selected spicy but there was only a tiny hint of heat after several consecutive bites.
The spam masubi consisted of two large pieces of rice with a thin slice of spam, lightly seared, and wrapped in nori with a bit of teriyaki sauce in-between. These were simple and tasty.
Ramen 101’s name is on point. It’s a great introduction and has lots of options and non-overwhelming flavors. I love that they also have the Hawaiian BBQ options as well. The service I’ve experienced has always been fast and friendly and the space is bright, clean and well kept. Pricing felt reasonable. For the ramen my taste buds prefer Fukumi’s flavors. Maybe yours will prefer Ramen 101’s.