After popping up for about two years at Blowfish Sushi, IZA RAMEN is opening in the former Squat & Gobble in the Lower Haight. Chef and partner Ritsuo Tsuchida—who has also been the chef-partner at Blowfish Sushi in the Mission since it opened—was originally a sushi chef in Tokyo, and he returned to Japan to go to ramen school. He wanted to create a space that has an approachable price point, and after two years of running the pop-up, he has a good sense of the kind of ramen he likes to make (and what his customers like to eat).
His broth is a combination of chicken broth, tonkotsu, and some bonito tuna and vegetable broth. They wanted to purchase their own noodle-making machine, but the sticker shock was too much ($40K), so they may be able to purchase one later on. There is ramen and tsukemen (which comes with a dipping soup), both available spicy or regular, and a vegetarian ramen will be available as well (all $11.50-$12.50). Additional toppings range from spicy kimchi to black garlic oil.
The expanded menu also includes some izakaya-like bites, starting with snacks like housemade pickles, garlic edamame, and hot appetizers like takoyaki, chicken gyoza, and spicy mabo tofu, plus yakitori. Cold appetizers include salmon or Wagyu steak tartare with housemade potato chips, Wagyu tataki, and bincho tuna carpaccio.
Since they have a beer and wine license, you’ll be able to enjoy some good pairings with these dishes (sake too!). And if you want a rice bowl, there’s a hearty one with chashu pork and another with sweet and spicy fried chicken (both $7.50), as well as shrimp fried rice ($8.50).
Interestingly, the Iza weekend pop-up will continue at Blowfish into November, and then in December, the pop-up will be called Ramen JuBay and focus on a tonkotsu broth.
The space has a contemporary look that’s a bit rustic with an industrial touch too. There are 50 seats, primarily at wood tables with metal trim, and there is a long wood banquette along the main wall (they stained the wood on the backrest and bench 10 times). There are two kinds of pendant lights, giving the space a polished look, though it still feels approachable.
The soft opening is this Thursday October 29th for dinner, 5pm-11pm nightly, and then lunch will begin next Thursday November 5th (11:30-2:30pm). Hours will then be adjusted as they get a sense of the neighborhood. 237 Fillmore St. at Haight, 415-926-8173.
The dining room at Iza Ramen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.