5812 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618 | 510.788.6370 | website
hours Mon, Wed-Sun 4pm to 12; closed Tuesdays
The Ramen Shop officially opened up earlier this month to great enthusiasm, it’s one of the few ramen shops around and there’s nothing quite like a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup to fend off the wintry cold weather. The exterior of the shop still looks like it needs some work, because when I went a couple of weeks ago, the windows were covered with brown paper and the only sign was a small piece of paper taped to the door. You peek in the door and a red paper lantern hangs at the bar a little ways in upon which is painted with the word Ramen (if you can read katakana) glows invitingly, drawing you into the warmth. Above it hangs a dramatically simple Delta Smelt that was painted by Jessica Niello a local artist, who also made the beautiful ceramic ramen bowls.
The dining room is long and narrow and it is dominated by a 16-seat counter made from old-growth Douglas fir that looks right into the kitchen. Above is a curving, eye-catching shape made of layered lath and plaster, unlike the front, the interior is quite lovely! The dining room is not crowded and leaves enough room between tables, unlike most Japanese restaurants, and offers a semi-private back table big enough for 8-10 that can be partially obscured by a curtain.
The restaurant was opened by three partners who worked together at Chez Panisse, Sam White (previously maître d’ and a founder of OPENrestaurant), Jerry Jaksich (who lived in Japan working in ramen and yakitori places, as well as in some higher-end Michelin-rated spots) and Rayneil De Guzman (who worked at Chez P and Café Rouge). They brought over a consulting ramen chef Jun Furukawa from Sapporo Japan to help them establish their perfect broth and noodle combo, which is drawn both from the traditions of Japan but follow the Chez P doctrine of local, organic and with a strong sensibility about using the right ingredients
The menu features three kinds of broths (a light lemon shoyu, Spicy miso from Hokkaido, and the rich pork bone based Tonkotsu. The noodles are housemade with a machine brought over from Japan, and then cooked in an alkaline bath to maintain the excellent springy texture.
Marinated mackerel was pan fried and topped with pickled carrots, slices of pickled watermelon radish, and thick meaty slices of mushroom, good but I was hoping for something more like the marinated mackerel that comes on Sabazushi…
My friend Chris zeroed on to the Fritto Misto when she saw it on the menu, matchstick thin pieces of potato and carrots, packed with juicy pieces of white shrimp and leaves of mint, lightly held together with a batter and served piping hot from the fryer. It was lightly sprinkled with a spicy Shichimi powder, but I would have enjoyed a ponzu or dashi dipping sauce.
We split a bowl of the Hokkaido style Spicy Miso Ramen which was piled with a mound of thinly sliced green onion, a thick slice of spit roasted llano secco chashu, and a salt cured egg that was perfectly cooked so that it was silken soft but firm throughout and filled my mouth with a velvety rich sheen. Damn, was that egg excellent! You can tell by just looking at the broth that it was rich and deeply flavorful, satisfying down to the core as you’d expect coming from a cold northern climate.
The noodles were thin and crinkly with a nice springy texture and I really enjoyed bright flavor added from the green onion.
I totally loved the Black Sesame Ice Cream, which had a rich nutty flavor and was sandwiched in between thin brown sugar cookies and served with two pieces of ginger gelee.
It was the best bowl of ramen I’ve had in a long time, perfect for the cold weather and I am so glad to finally be able to enjoy a good bowl of ramen in the east bay.