Mushroom aburasoba with egg and crispy add-ons from Kajiken in San Mateo. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw)
By Kate Bradshaw
After hearing that there was a new restaurant in San Mateo offering aburasoba, a brothless style of ramen, I made plans with a friend to test it out.
I had heard it was popular, but even I hadn't expected to see the line reaching down the block when I arrived just after the opening time on a recent Saturday.
Customers line up down the block on a recent Saturday to eat at Kajiken, an aburasoba restaurant in San Mateo. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw)
Kajiken, which opened Feb. 8, offers a type of ramen served with housemade aburasoba noodles flavored with oils and sauces rather than broth. The menu includes nine preset aburasoba combinations featuring various pork preparations and a roast beef one, plus a vegetarian mushroom aburasoba. Customers can also build their own or customize their bowl with a set of 18 additional toppings, from green onions and bamboo shoots to plum or curry powder. Kajiken also has a Baltimore location and a number of others in Japan, Singapore and China.
By the time we had worked our way up to the front of the line, we had been waiting about 70 minutes. But once we were at the front of the line, the staff operated with friendliness and efficiency. Seated at a bar with a window view into the noodle rolling machine, the two of us ordered iced oolong tea along with the pork aburasoba and the mushroom aburasoba, respectively, each requesting the add-ons of crispy onions and a soft-boiled egg. We also split an order of takoyaki, a set of fried spherical dumplings made with batter and octopus bites, offering a crispy exterior and a chewy and soft interior.
Takoyaki, or fried dumplings with octopus, are offered at Kajiken, an aburasoba restaurant in San Mateo. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw)
The mushroom aburasoba came with both shimeji and king trumpet mushrooms, spinach, tofu and red onions. Following the advice of the server to mix the noodles thoroughly, I took my first bite and was delighted with the way the slightly chewy texture of the fresh noodles blended with the oils and sauces.
We more than made up for lost time by practically inhaling our generous noodle portions to make room for the next customers behind us. Looking back, we agreed that had the weather been as chilly during our wait then as it's been this week, we might not have made it to the front of the line, but that the wait was worth it for the new experience of trying a different style of ramen.
No reservations are accepted, and Kajiken is open Wednesdays through Mondays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
Kajiken, 112 S B. St., San Mateo; Instagram: @kajikenusa.