I’m thrilled to share the VERY exciting news that TAISHOKEN, the iconic tsukemen and ramen shop brand in Japan, will be opening their second U.S. location in San Francisco (they opened their first shop in San Mateo in 2019). Tsukemen—the dipping of cold noodles into hot broth—started as a staff meal at Taishoken Nakano (Tokyo) sixty years ago, with the staff dunking leftover cold noodles into soup on hot days. After customers started requesting the dish, tsukemen became popular and well-known in Tokyo, and then beyond—Taishoken now has over 100 restaurants in Japan.
Taishoken is a family business that started in 1951, with founder Masayasu Sakaguchi, who invited his relative, Kazuo Yamagishi, to join him (you can read more history here). Masayasu Sakaguchi’s son, Mitsuo Sakaguchi, continued the growth, and the third generation and grandson, Yoshihiro Sakagachi, is the CEO and living here in the U.S. with his family to open and operate these new locations. He said they always planned to open in San Francisco, and he has been looking for a location for two years.
When Taishoken first opened in San Mateo in July 2019, the lines were probably the longest ones the suburban city has ever seen, and then eight months later, we know what happens next: the pandemic struck. They managed to survive with a spacious parklet and their tokusei tsukemen family takeout kits, featuring their housemade, chewy buckwheat noodles and deeply savory and umami-rich broth, with Berkshire pork chashu and a Jidori soft-boiled egg. (You can still order the kits for home.)
The new San Francisco location will be opening in the former MAU on Valencia Street, and will have 50 seats. Yoshi tells me the experience will be a bit more upscale, offering more appetizers than the San Mateo location, and the décor will be a touch elevated as well. I asked about any menu details he could share, and he said the chef is from Japan and is just getting ramped up with them, so no teasers quite yet. But he did mention there would be some limited specials, like lobster, crab, or wagyu ramen and tsukemen, so plan on some luxurious seasonal additions. (You can view the San Mateo menu here.) While the SF location will start with beer and wine (and sake, of course), they hope to eventually secure a full liquor license so they can serve cocktails in the future. He’s very excited to open in the Mission and loves the restaurant culture of the neighborhood.
The interior will have a modern Japanese style, and their noodle-making machine will be visible from the bar area. There will also be some noren curtains that will obscure the bar a little from the dining room, plus some cool surface lighting—Yoshi mentioned it will have some yatai vibes (the freestanding ramen carts).
They hope to open in June—they just started on construction. They plan to add a Shared Space with outdoor seating in time, and will eventually be open for lunch and dinner daily. When they open, they plan to serve Wed-Sun evenings to start. I will definitely keep you posted on details as this exciting project develops. 665 Valencia St. at 18th St.
Taishoken’s tsukemen with Berkshire pork chashu and a Jidori soft-boiled egg with hot dipping soup on the side. Photo courtesy of Taishoken.