In the dark and winding halls of the Pacific East Mall, right next to the grocery store, a small and tasty ramen house reigns. Isshin Ramen House — like most vendors in the Pacific East Mall — feels a little out of place, but somehow the flavors work just right, making it one of the best noodle houses in the area.
The dark wooden walls that house Isshin’s two dozen or so tables stood silent towards the end of a recent lunch hour. Signs of past customers lingered — a crumpled napkin here, a half-empty bowl of broth there — but the emptiness of the restaurant was a little eerie.
However strange the restaurant’s lack of customers was, it did, fortunately, result in very speedy and attentive service. The menu itself is pretty simple, featuring about 12 different variations of ramen and a brief list of appetizers, which helped further expedite an already fast meal. With confirmation of my order — spicy miso ramen with an extra soft boiled egg, please! — and a quick nod, my waiter was off to the kitchen.
Just as quickly he was back with my order, and before I knew it I was chopsticks deep in a steaming bowl of noodles.
The deep bowl of ramen came out with beautiful presentation. The creamy yellow of the miso broth served as the perfect canvas for the mountain of bright green scallions and the mound of spicy red sauce in the middle of the bowl. The landscape quickly blurred into abstraction as the quest for noodles mixed everything together. The once brightly-colored bowl quickly became a smoldering volcanic red after just a few prods of the chopsticks.
The flavors in the miso are spicy, savory, and, thanks to the soft boiled egg, surprisingly creamy. It’s hard to find something to critique in their food except, maybe, that there is so much in a single bowl that it’s nearly impossible to finish it in one sitting.
It was at this moment that Isshin began to make a little more sense. There’s no way that flavors and presentation this good can result in a totally abandoned restaurant all day long. And it appears that everyone on Yelp agrees. Isshin Ramen House, even though it’s awkwardly tucked away in the back of the Pacific East Mall, has garnered a huge following of ramen enthusiasts throughout the Bay Area.
If you can get past the beeping of items being rung up at the grocery store across the hall, and the slight awkwardness of potentially being the only customer in the restaurant — Isshin is worth the trip.
Isshin Ramen House
3288 Pierce Street, Richmond
Tel. (510) 559-7888
Monday - Friday: 11:30 am to 9:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
View their Yelp page here.
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