Itani Ramen, the new project from Hopscotch chef-owner Kyle Itani, is readying the noodle machines for an opening just after the holiday. The restaurant will be a chance for the chef to give people an experience more similar to the ubiquitous ramen shops found in Japan, rather than as an afterthought. "Ramen is still under represented in the Bay Area," said Itani. "I want this to be just about ramen."
Itani's main goal is to expose people to the experience and culture of the popular dish, while making it accessible and as affordable as the Bay Area allows— prices for a bowl will range from $12-14 (gratuity included). The menu will include four set bowls of ramen that change with the seasons, plus a "prefecture special" that will rotate monthly. As part of Itani's mission to explore the different regions of Japan, he will feature the cuisine of a different prefecture each month or so, using ingredients that are specific to that area. "I'm not trying to copy their ramen exactly, but just capture the essence and style of the different regions," said Itani. "I'm excited teach and share with our guests, and learn more myself." Part of the challenge will be sourcing ingredients like a special freshwater seawood from the Akita prefecture, which he hopes to feature at opening.
The new space, designed by Abueg Morris, is intended as both a destination for a quick meal, or a relaxed experience with pals. Diners will order at the counter, then take a number; servers will deliver the food, and remain on hand with a handheld device to take drink orders. "Counter service is standard in Japan, it makes it easy and quick, but also hospitable," said Itani. In addition to steaming bowls of ramen and appetizers like gyoza, there will be a selection of beer and sake. And, Itani is hoping to serve ice-cold shochu served by the shot, cooled in the reconfigured Jaegermeister machine he purchased for that very purpose.
Right now the restaurant is scheduled to open January 18. Stay tuned for more details and menus as they become available.