NB: Visited in November 2019, before Covid.
Many people would crucify me if they heard I ate ramen in Chiang Mai, but listen people, I'm not a vacationer, i've spent A LOT of time in Chiang Mai over the past 20 years, and I sometimes need a break from the amazing local dishes. Ramen is a good alternative, and is generally quite hard to find a great version of.
In my previous month stay I visited two other Ramen-spots in Chiang Mai and was overly disappointed, however after a lot of studious reading and blog-scouring, Sanmai Ramen kept creeping up with rather positive reviews. One rainy afternoon I hopped in a songtheauw and headed out to the burbs to find it.
It proved a tiny bit more tricky than on paper (google maps), but I was greeted to an old lady standing on the side of the street pointing towards the small dead end. I realised I wasn't the first lost sheep seeking salvation from the noodle shepherd.
I was told to wait since the small restaurant was already packed full of bobbing heads slurping from above their white bowls laded with goodness. I sat tapping my foot impatiently hoping the chef wouldn't keel over and die, or pop an aneurysm just prior to my turn. Selfish, I know, but there is no charity in ramen pursuits.
The humidity in the air was thick like a sauna, and the initial thought of eating steaming hot soup was perhaps ill-thought out, however, demands are demands.
I was guided into a waiting room to suffer the indignity of starvation soundtracked by slurping sounds bouncing off the walls next-door. As luck would have it, a solo eater had polished off their bowl and my space was occupied and a bowl of their Tonkotsu Ramen ordered. I watched as the chefs followed their well-worn routines, having myself been in their position on a few occasions.
Within minutes a bowl of ramen arrived and I stared, dazzled by the beauty of simple, honest food. As traditions insist, I first sipped the broth after having caressed every centimeter of the bowl with my eyes. This was real, bonafide Tonkotsu Ramen. It wasn't quite on the level of some of the spots I ate at in Japan, understandably enough, but this would hold a challenge of even the mighty Bankara Ramen in Bangkok.
If I was to offer one minor complaint, it would be that the egg was not marinated. However, the cook on it was spot on.
I ignored the customers seated to my left and right and punished the bowl until it was empty. After a brief chat with the kind chef, I paid my bill happily, stroked my protruding stomach, and headed out making a mental note to return here as soon as possible.
With Covid 19, that "as possible" is still to be realised. I only hope they survive the decimating disease.
P.s. Glad to see Andy Ricker had found it, and needless to say, enjoyed it.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"