Long before the 5 p.m. dinner opening this week, a line had formed outside the new Mensho ramen in Oakland. Diners had convened to experience the Tokyo-based chain’s elevated twists on ramen, with toothsome ingredients like A5 wagyu, porcini mushrooms, sea urchin and snow crab.
Mensho runs a popular ramen shop in San Francisco (and apparently has a smaller operation in the X/Twitter building). For the East Bay spot, Mensho took over the space previously occupied by the venerable Chinese-American joint, Little Shin Shin. Large glass windows give onlookers a glimpse of ramen experts crafting their steaming soups. A sign by the door introduces founding chef Tomoharu Shono, who “has been experimenting with pork bone soup at home since he was at high school,” and opened his first restaurant in Tokyo at age 25.
Mensho’s signature ramen is a Smoked Toripaitan ($23) with a rich chicken broth, smoked seasoned egg, smoked Kurobuta pork chashu, smoked A5 wagyu, smoked duck, king oyster mushrooms, charcoal negi and – wait for it – “OG truffle sauce.” “Enjoy the change in flavors while you eat, as the smokiness blends into the soup,” advises the menu.
There’s a luxurious A5 Wagyu Shoyu ($36) with porcini, aged katsuobushi soup, kioke wooden-barrel soy sauce and semi-dried roasted tomatoes. Any Draculas out there will want to avoid the Garlic Knock Out ($21) which uses garlic five ways — chips, fresh, flakes, roasted and blackened garlic oil. Then there are off-the wall ramens like Spicy Lamb Miso Cumin ($21) with fenugreek and garlic chives, and a vegan Matcha Ramen ($21) in vegetable broth with Kyoto green-tea powder, fresh spinach and shiitake and oyster ‘shrooms.
There are two chilled mini-ramens on offer as appetizers, one with snow crab and salmon roe ($22) and the other with corn, Hokkaido sea urchin, caviar and white truffle oil ($24). And bar-appropriate appetizers include karaage chicken, nori calamari and enoki-mushroom chips which should pair well with the restaurant’s local draft beers and sake, including San Francisco’s Sequoia draft sake made with Sacramento Valley rice and H2O from “the glacier-carved Yosemite watershed.”
Details: Open 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday at 4258 Piedmont Ave., Oakland; menshopiedmont.com