Marufuku Ramen + Bird & Buffalo

This was our goal. Ramen. Specifically Hakata style ramen highlighting a rich, milky tonkotsu broth cooked for over 20 hours, served with a thin but bouncy noodle. Marufuku opens at 5:00pm and there is always a wait. But thanks to the trusty Yelp check in feature allowing you to check in from your phone and put your name on the list, we thought we were prepared. Nope! Turns out, the Yelp app does not refresh and you have to manually refresh it! So only after maybe 15 minutes past 5pm, there was already a whole village checked in before us.

We had a decision to make. Nix the ramen plans or kill time? Since we were already all the way out there and in an area we don’t frequent we decided to stick it out. 

Guess it was time to get our snack on at Bird & Buffalo. The Thai eatery actually has been on my list for a while but we just never got around to trying it.

There’s a fairly long walkway with high counter top seating along the window. In the back they have a few large communal bench tables.

Papaya Salad Thai Style, Medium: Green papaya, tomato, string beans, carrot, peanuts, chili & fresh lime juice ($9.95)

We tend to judge a place and its authenticity based off of its spice level. It isn’t always accurate, but doesn’t fail us often. We asked for medium thinking it would be dumbed down some. Boy were we mistaken. After exactly two bites, my mouth was on fire. Is it possible for your tongue to sweat? No not salivate, legit sweat! I think mine did. The good thing is after five bites it was numb so all good! If you can get over the spice level you can appreciate the papaya salad and the fresh ingredients. The thin slices of papaya were nice and crisp and the fish sauce funk made its presence felt. If they had a mildium or something in between mild and medium that would be perfect.

Road-side Pork Skewers (2) ($7.95)

Two pork skewers for $8? Meh. I think three would do it. They were okay. Nothing bad about them at all. Just wanted more!

Now that we killed about 45 minutes it was time for us to go to Marufuku and check in (after we already Yelp checked in online). It was a cold brisk night and we really didn’t want to stand outside too long. After we got there, we had to wait another 30 minutes. Damn, that part was disappointing and annoying. I get it is hard to estimate wait times, but we were only a party of two and after putting our names on the list I was hoping to have a steaming hot bowl of ramen in front of me by now. 

Do you hate sitting at the tables near the front of a busy ass restaurant? Everyone stares at you thinking, hurry your ass up and then smiles at you when you make eye contact. I do! 

Luckily when we finally did get seated we got tucked in the way back corner on the bar with a perfect view of the ramen action.

Karaage Bowl -Japanese Style Fried Chicken Over Rice ($4)

With the lengthy wait we wanted to maximize our time there and try their fried chicken. It was…okay. The breading was super thin and rather moist. A feature I like to avoid in fried chicken is mushy batter. On top of that it just wasn’t super flavorful. Guess we should stick to the star of the show. 

Hakata Tonkotsu DX – Hakata Style Ramen with Rich Pork Broth Regular Toppings (Chashu Pork (Simmered Pork Belly), Seasoned Soft Boiled Egg, Green Onions, Kikurage Mushrooms, Bean Sprouts) & Buta Kakuni (Braised Thick Pork Belly), Corn, and Nori Seaweed. ($16.99)

Ramen! Yup, that is definitely the plan next time. We also got this ramen with medium spice. As opposed to the papaya salad, this was way more tolerable and oh so good. The crunchy corn and bright red ginger put it over the top for me. Sure the broth was top notch, the noodles had chew for days, and the extra pork belly melted in our mouths. It was a perfect symphony of flavors hitting at the right time.  

Chicken Paitan – Chicken Ramen with Rich White “Paitan” Broth Chashu Chicken Breast, Seasoned Soft Boiled Egg, Green Onions, Kikurage Mushrooms, and Bean Sprouts. ($12.99)

Now with this Chicken Paitan ramen we were hoping to get something way more subtle, light, and clean tasting. And it gives you just that. This is like the equivalent of a bowl of American chicken noodle soup when you are sick. Dare I say way better and more satisfying though? There were less ingredients in this bowl, but sometimes less is more. And if you’re going for a clean, thinner broth to just sip on and enjoy, this is the one. 

Final Thoughts

Will we go back to either Bird & Buffalo or Marufuku Ramen? Probably. But not without preparation. Surely I’ll be on my phone refreshing Yelp at 5:00pm like it’s a Southwest flight. (Go A-list status promo’s.) The ramen was very good. I’m not sure if I like it more than Ramen Dojo but so far they are my top two favorite places in the bay. And as far as Bird & Buffalo goes, you can’t really judge a place fully on the apps or starters. It deserves another go for their main entrees. Anyone crave ramen now? I know I do! 🙂  

Bird & Buffalo

4659 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609

Marufuku Ramen

4828 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609

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