Soba Ichi, a soba noodle restaurant from the team behind beloved Berkeley izakaya Ippuku, will open after two long years in development on Tuesday, June 19. When it does, it won’t have much company: The West Oakland restaurant at 2311A Magnolia Street (in the former Fusebox space) will be one of just a handful in the US to make its own soba noodles from scratch. It’s opening with just lunch (and a limited quantity of noodles) to start and dinner to follow as the team gets more comfortable.
The long process of opening the new restaurant involved shipping equipment, including a grain mill, from Japan so chef Koichi Ishii, a longtime Ippuku employee, could mill his own flour from buckwheat (which he’s sourcing from Washington state). “We spent a lot of time and money for the milling machine,” Ishii says, explaining that he’s making both the flour and the noodles daily. For broth, Ishii uses high grade kombu, dried shiitake, and three kinds of bonito. The menu will also include some small plates of non soba items.
“Finally we can make a soba restaurant,” says Shinichi Washino, another Ippuku employee who is behind the sake and schochu program at Soba Ichi. As a noodle, Washino says, soba is less known locally than ramen and udon — and there’s a reason.
“It’s so hard to make them,” he says. “You need technique more than udon or ramen. That’s why there’s no soba restaurant — you need to practice for years.”
The Soba Ichi space was redesigned by Paul Discoe, a partner with chef Christian Geideman at Ippuku and Soba Ichi. A celebrated wood craftsman and ordained Zen Buddhist priest, Discoe has designed everything from Buddhist temples to stunning restaurant spaces like the Perennial. “It’s very simple,” says Washino of the new restaurant space, “just wooden tables, benches, and a beautiful bar,” plus an attached dining room.
Starting next week, Soba Ichi will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with last call for noodles at 2:30 p.m.