A few weeks ago, fans of Clint and Yoko’s NOODLE IN A HAYSTACK ramen pop-up witnessed a first look (on Instagram) at their upcoming restaurant in the Inner Richmond. It was so exciting to see their beautiful wood counter and natural modern seats. They are now in a private, soft-opening phase, but unless you were a backer of their Kickstarter, it will likely be a while until you can experience their special ramen and tasting menu—they have 700 Kickstarter backers they need to feed first (FYI, there are still some opportunities for any high rollers!). Although they desperately need some income coming in, so (BIG PSSSST HERE) they’re going to open extremely limited reservations for some of the seatings to non-Kickstarter friends—keep your eyes peeled for an announcement within a week or so. (Watch their Instagram and Facebook stories and keep an eye out for their newsletter.)
Their story of trying to open this restaurant has been a particular kind of hell—they thought they could open in six months, and it has dragged on for over a year. They have had to do so many unexpected things for the space (including install a hood), deal with permit snags and ABC license issues, and pay for things like a labor attorney. The expenses have continued to mount, putting these first-time business owners into a stressful pressure cooker as they try to figure out their path forward.
They really envisioned a casual neighborhood place, with a lot of one-on-one care, but the cold, hard financial realities of opening this restaurant are forcing them to charge more than they would like, and offer more seatings. The good news is their ramen (and other dishes) are so utterly delicious, and they have such a dedicated following, that I know people are going to show up for them. The $139 tasting menu is going to feature four appetizers/small bites, one ramen (eventually it will be two kinds of ramen dishes and styles, each served in a smaller portion size), and one dessert (eventually two).
It’s going to be a hearty menu: the appetizer courses will feature dishes like deep-fried milk bread with wagyu butter (it’s like whipped, roasted A5 lardo), and their trademark deviled ramen egg with Ikura shoyu-zuke, chicken cracklin’, smoked fish powder, and pickled daikon. New dishes include dashi-an uni tofu, with Hokkaido uni, ikura, dashi gravy, silken tofu, and roasted shrimp oil (wow), and a kanpachi crudo with yuzu dashi ponzu, roasted garlic oil, and cilantro.
When the duo of ramens are served, imagine a light, clear, delicate shio broth, followed by a gutsy, rich, A5 wagyu abura soba (a dry-style noodle dish with a concentrated shoyu tare, roasted wagyu drippings, whipped wagyu “butter,” katsuo dashi, 63° egg, thick tsukemen noodles, and beef dashi menma). Sign me up!
A sample dessert will include annin dofu kakigoori (shaved ice), almond jelly, and kiwi preserves. Yoko’s passion for baking will really shine throughout the menu, with sweet and savory delights like financiers with caviar and sandwich cookies.
The space has 12 seats total at the L-shaped counter around the open kitchen, with a beautiful bar of reclaimed pine from Evan Shively—Clint tells me the 16-foot slab became the centerpiece and heart of the restaurant. They’re excited to start serving on the beautiful dishes and sake glasses they have been stockpiling—the dinner is going to be an elevated presentation.
They’re planning to start with three nights a week while they get their sea legs. While they’re eager to offer two seatings, they’re likely going to start with one—they’re having a hard time balancing childcare (their kid is in AA basketball) and their beloved dog Toto (she is their mascot) has not been doing well and requires a lot of extra care that they feel bad asking someone to oversee while they’re at work. It breaks my heart to hear how much they’re trying to manage. But they are so determined to persevere. Here’s wishing them the best. 4601 Geary Ave. at 10th Ave.
A5 wagyu abura soba (with tsukemen noodles) on the upcoming Noodle in a Haystack tasting menu. Photo courtesy of Noodle in a Haystack.