Popular Japanese ramen chain Ippudo, which opened last year in Berkeley, is now hitting the San Francisco crowds with the opening of its new restaurant in Yerba Buena Lane in SOMA.
The San Francisco spot has been in soft opening mode for the last week, and has already been drawing lines. I got a chance to get inside and check out the new digs during a media event on Thursday that featured taiko drummers and Ippudo founder Shigemi Kawahara. (Thanks again for Sandy of Foodhoe for letting me tag along with her!)
The San Francisco location (next door to the Press Club) features a bright bar upfront, serving more than 50 sake options. The dining area has a more lounge environment than the Berkeley store, with an expansive metal artwork that symbolizes an upside down tea whisk.
A quick glance of the menu seems to indicate that the offerings are very similar to the Berkeley location, and tastes the same as we snacked on familiar appetizers like the “Goma Q” cucumbers to the steamed buns with fried chicken (covered by the same sweet-sour sauce that I wasn’t really a fan of when I tried it for the first time).
During the media event, Kawahara developed a special celebration lobster ramen offered only for that night. It was a luscious tonkotsu broth that was lighter than pork tonkotsu but still rich and creamy. The ramen noodles were more crinkly than they are in Berkeley, but it might have just been for the lobster ramen because when I tried the vegetarian ramen, the noodles were the same thin ones in Berkeley.
The San Francisco location is just really one stop in Ippudo’s growth, as it expands through investment and support of the Panda Restaurant Group (owners of Panda Express). In Japan, ramen is for the masses, and Ippudo is living up to that mission with this latest opening, bringing more ramen to everyone.
The deets: Ippudo, 18 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco. Open daily from 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. Website
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