Respect the egg
Kotteri Ramen Bar
Kotteri Ramen Bar9015 Bruceville Rd.
Elk Grove, CA 95758
I love to read about food, in the small window of time when I’m not writing about food, or eating food, or thinking about what food I will eat next. Eater.com is a favorite website, and I will sometimes gaze longingly at listicles they post such as “where to eat ramen in San Diego,” with 13 ramen shops listed. Thirteen ramen eateries to argue and debate about sounds like heaven to me. Yes, San Diego is bigger than Sac, but we arguably have only two ramen-focused spots: No. 1: Ryu Jin and No. 2: Shoki. I’m not counting Rai Jin, the awkward café that is across the street from Ryu Jin, owned by the same people, yet somehow terrible.
Why do we have a dearth of ramen-focused restaurants? Relief may come in the form of Kodaiko Ramen & Bar, which Kru chef Billy Ngo will be opening on K Street, but in the meantime, you can wait 20 minutes for a table at Shoki, or you can drive 20 minutes to Kotteri Ramen Bar in Elk Grove, where you’ll find steaming bowls of soup that stand rim to rim with the best in Sacramento.
Due to the simple menu—mostly limited to ramen and a few apps—and the open kitchen in which furiously boiling pots and noodle strainers can be seen in continuous use, Kotteri has the feel of a Japanese ramen joint, but the lack of beer or sake on the menu stands out as an unwelcome American touch. You can “Kanpai!” with a soda or tea instead, but it’s not as festive.
Kotteri is serious about the egg, as evinced by the perfect soft-boiled egg floating in my soup visit after visit. Not only is the yolk optimally gelatinous and deep yellow each time, but they are cut in half, thereby allowing the interior to warm in the broth.
The other standout component of Kotteri soups is the chashu (sliced pork belly), which is thick-cut, unctuous and deeply pork-y in a way that somehow doesn’t flavor the relatively light and mild tonkatsu and miso broths that it swims in.
Billed as the “signature ramen,” Hokkaido Cheese Ramen ($10.95), topped with Parmesan and butter, is almost as ridiculously comforting as the Italian dish Cacio e Pepe (made simply with cheese, pepper and pasta). Black and Red Tonkatsu, and Miso Ramen ($9.95), are topped with wood ear mushrooms and perhaps too many bland beansprouts. The soups benefit from adding pickled ginger (50 cents), but are otherwise delightful.
Even better is the Tsukemen ($9.95), a beautifully composed dish of noodles, egg, ground pork, chashu and nori, meant to be dipped in cool sesame broth. While the Tsukemen is perennially awkward to eat, the salty, umami richness of the ground pork combined with the smoky broth makes it worth the struggle.
Appetizers are uneven: fizzy, housemade Kimchi ($3.95) is a nice addition to any order, but Karaage (deep-fried, boneless chicken, $5.95)) is bomb on one visit and under-fried the next. Fried Squid Legs ($5.95) are tender but gummy and oil-slicked.
Open since May, Kotteri looks to be quite popular, and often has a short waiting list. It’s a welcome addition to the area dining scene and a key component if we ever reach ramen saturation to rate a top 10 list.