There’s a reason that Soba Ichi, a new lunch restaurant tucked away on an industrial block of West Oakland, feels so soothing and zen: It’s designed by ordained Zen Buddhist priest and master wood craftsman Paul Discoe, whose work includes Zen centers and Buddhist temples. At 2311A Magnolia Street, his design offers a peaceful backdrop for noodle contemplation and appreciation. Soba Ichi opens today.
There’s been plenty of time to work on the new space (formerly FuseBox). The restaurant, which comes from the team behind hit Berkeley izakaya Ippuku (where Discoe is a partner) took two years to develop. Shinichi Washino and chef Koichi Ishii, who have spearheaded the project, explained that the process of milling fresh buckwheat flour and turning it into soba noodles is labor intensive, requiring expensive specialty equipment shipped from Japan.
“It’s so hard to make [soba]” Washino says. “You need technique more than udon or ramen. That’s why there’s [very few homemade] soba restaurants — you need to practice for years.”
Ishi’s menu includes 100 percent buckwheat noodles and noodles made with a mix of buckwheat and flour, served cold with dipping sauce or hot in broth, plus sides like delicately fried tempura vegetables, pickles, miso-simmered herring, and more. Washino is behind the beverage list, which includes Japanese beers, schochu, and sake.
Washino describes the new space as “very simple,” full of clean, reclaimed wood from Discoe’s nearby design studio, Joinery Structures. A fountain burbles away in front of outdoor tables, while more seating awaits in a central dining room inside.
Soba Ichi is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, with last call at 2:30 p.m. It’s closed Sundays and Mondays.