Japanese culture applies rigorous precision to certain aspects of daily life. That can most certainly be said about the food. Ramen, for example, is a thoroughly thought-out dish, and every aspect—from the preparation of the soup to the way it’s eaten—is exceedingly deliberate.

This appreciation for detail is what makes JINYA Ramen Bar, the newest arrival in the South Bay ramen scene, a dark horse candidate to take the local crown away from Orenchi Ramen, the Michelin-recommended, Zagat-rated and 2017 winner of a Metro readers’ pick Best Of award.

JINYA is the brainchild of Japanese restaurateur Tomonori Takahashi, and the chain’s first Northern California location is stationed just outside of Oakridge Mall. Takahashi takes every part of the craft seriously, as the broth simmers for no less than 10 hours and the handmade noodles are aged in-house for three days.

JINYA has also taken their décor and non-ramen menu items to the next level by offering up small plates, Japanese curry and local craft beers on tap. The interior is mostly communal seating with a long, elegant wood bar that lends a view of the open kitchen, and a chic black stone table outside with a fire burning in the middle for chillier nights.

To prepare for my visit to JINYA, I made a pilgrimage to Orenchi the day before, so I could have a solid back-to-back comparison of the two. After all, if you’re coming to play, you better be prepared to dance with the big boys. Or is it eat? I digress.

We started out our meal with a couple of JINYA’s small plates, including the JINYA Bun ($4.50) and Brussel Sprouts Tempura ($6.85). The bun featured a slow-simmered hunk of pork chashu that would’ve melted in my hands had it not been for the pillow-soft steamed bun holding it together. Combined with their sauce and spring greens, it was quite a treat. The tempura was crispy and piping hot, but I found it a bit bland. Surprisingly, it didn’t come with a sauce that really could’ve helped put it over the top.

With appetizers out of the way, it was time for the star of the show to emerge: JINYA’s signature Tonkatsu Black ($13). As most ramen fanatics will note, it’s all about the broth. While a lot of ramen broths can be a little one-note, the Tonkatsu Black had so many flavor variations—thanks to the kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), garlic chips, black garlic oil and spicy sauce—that it kept my palate consistently activated. The thick-cut chashu pork was delicious and buttery soft, and the soft-boiled egg was practically flawless, as the rich dark yellow yolk spread and encompassed all it touched. My only qualm came with the noodles, as they had an almost granular texture—it wasn’t bad, per se, but may just be a different type of noodle than I’m used to eating.

Is JINYA the new gold standard in Ramen? We’ll leave that up to readers, but I think JINYA can contend. The restaurant has a saying: No Ramen, no life.

I’d like to propose a similar phrase that I think they can agree with: Know Ramen, know life.

JINYA Ramen Bar
925 Blossom Hill Road #1637, San Jose
Japanese (Ramen)