The Bay Area has long been ramen crazy, and in recent years, Japan's most lauded ramen shops have looked to our city when bringing their noodle game across the Pacific, knowing that we'll eagerly line up (hi, Mensho Tokyo, we still can't get in).
The latest and hottest? Tsuta, which carries the singular title of being the first ramen eatery to earn a Michelin star, is now slangin' noodles in San Francisco's SoMa.
First opened with just nine seats in Tokyo back in 2012, Tsuta pulled down a Michelin star in 2016—and every year after that. Chef/founder Yuki Onishi—who hails from a family of ramen chefs—later opened two more restaurants in Singapore; San Francisco counts number four, and also his first in the U.S.
Tsuta SF is also American-sized, with a whopping 50 seats available for San Francisco slurpers who will find only soba noodles on the menu—a bit thinner and denser than your average ramen or udon noodle, the soba noodles here are made with a proprietary blend of different wheat flours. Onishi views the word "ramen" as synonymous with "noodle," and hopes the term will be widely adopted to refer to any Japanese noodle soup.
The soba noodles here are delectably chewy and flavorful, made by hand, in house, and fresh daily. The noodles are so fresh, in fact, that Tsuta's limit is 300 bowls per day; while we Americans don't like limits, this is at least double what Tsuta's Tokyo location can serve. Lucky us.
But of course, soba is just noodles without the broth. What makes a top-notch bowl of ramen is piping-hot, soul warming soup. On the menu, you'll find three types of ramen broth (shoyu, shio, and miso) all made from a signature soy base—a combination of Onishi's homemade shoyu along with two other Onishi-customized shoyus, made with two-year-aged soybeans sourced from Japan's Wakayama Prefecture. This custom shoyu is added to Tsuta's dashi soup stock and cooked with just a precise amount of heat to generate all kinds of umami flavors.
Then comes a healthy portion of soba noodles with broth-specific toppings. The shoyu soba has a delightful, salty black truffle oil; the shio soba has hints of Okinawa sea salt, Mongolian rock salt, white truffle oil, and spearmint; and the miso soba utilizes the shoyu base but with added mame miso from the Tokushima Prefecture for a rich flavor. Additional toppings include bamboo shoots, leeks, eggs, and onion. All the ingredients here are the same as those used at the Japanese outpost, so don't worry that you're not getting the real deal.
Of course, with Michelin-starred food, comes Michelin-starred prices, right? Not here. Bowls start at $12 and might run you $20 max if you go crazy with extra toppings.
Not the ramen fan in your friend group? You can still tag along for the edamame, crispy karaage chicken, bowls of tender roasted pork, and rice.
(Photography by Sarah Chorey)
San Franciscans are lucky to have 50 seats available at the U.S. outpost of Tsuta, which can seat only nine in Japan.
// Open 5pm to 10pm daily; Tsuta, 155 4th St. (SoMa), tsuta.com