When chefs tell you where to eat, it’s a good idea to listen. When they offer to come with you, the universe is saying, “this is where you’re eating tonight.” And so it was that a chef friend and I drove down from Napa to eat at Oakland’s Ramen Shop on a recent trip through the Bay Area.
Knowing the restaurant to be consistently busy (and having nothing else to do) I went down early to put our name on the list so that we could hopefully sit down to eat around 7:00p. This gave me time for a nostalgic wander through Rockridge including a fine cup of coffee from Cole Coffee.
Jerry Jaksich, Rayneil De Guzman, and Sam White, all alums of Chez Panisse, are the partners behind the restaurant. They opened to high expectations but by all indications, they have met or exceeded the desires of the ramen-craving East Bay community and are thriving.
Ramen Shop’s menu showcases their background, changing daily and featuring ingredients from some of the areas most talented and conscientious farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. We sampled the Assorted pickles: Turmeric daikon, spicy green beans, bell peppers and carrots, leeks, and dashi cucumbers as well as the Monterey Bay squid and pork fried rice with wild nettles, cilantro, tomatoes, and Siew’s spicy shrimp-chili paste. It was a tough call, but I decided on the Spicy miso ramen with smoked local king salmon, ground pork belly, soy-marinated egg, baby bok choy, cilantro, and squash blossom once it was made clear that I could taste my friend’s Shio ramen with chashu, chanterelles, soy-marinated egg, scallions, watercress, and takana.
My spicy miso ramen was packed with flavors that managed to meld together beautifully despite their individual boldness. The smoked local king salmon was particularly delicious and made me very grateful for the sustainable fisheries policies enacted by California to bring the commercial salmon fishery back. The noodles, made fresh in house using a proudly displayed noodle maker, were cooked to the point where they were a touch toothsome when my bowl first hit the table but continued to soften as they sat in the hot broth. And speaking of the broth, the spicy miso broth had just the right amount of heat to enliven the dish without masking the flavor of the peppers themselves. It was a fantastic bowl of ramen.
With a dynamic menu and talented culinary team, Ramen Shop is the sort of restaurant that I will gladly visit whenever the opportunity arises just to see what the chefs are up to. With a fun space, friendly staff, and great location, I’d imagine the crowds won’t be thinning, so I’ll be sure to show up early and to get my name on that list.