Izayaka Sozai: Authentic Japanese Ramen
By Dawn Maxey
Now that the cold rainy season has officially begun (non-Californians hush), sometimes all you want is a comforting bowl of warm noodle soup. To stave off the gloomy chill settling around the City, two friends and I decided to try the famed Izayaka Sozai, a small Japanese restaurant in the Inner Sunset. Their signature dish is the “Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen” ($9) which comes with slices of pork. You can add pork belly for an additional two dollars or spicy miso to the broth for an extra buck fifty.
Normally the cozy place is packed and the line to get in snakes out the door, but my group and I lucked out on a Sunday evening and snagged a table right away. While glancing at the menu choices, I noticed nearly everyone else in the restaurant huddled over bowls of ramen – if I wasn’t holding a menu, I’d be surprised that there was anything else offered. There are, however, tempting options such as the bacon wrapped mochi skewers ($5), spicy tuna on crispy rice ($8.5), and the traditional tako wasabi, wasabi marinated raw octopus ($4.5). For the sake aficionados out there, Izayaka Sozai offers a sake tasting flight that’ll set you back 12 bucks.
Everyone in my group opted for the ramen and about fifteen minutes after we placed our order, three steaming bowls arrived. It was love at first slurp. The portions were generously sized and came with a sheet of Nori (dried seaweed) tucked in on the side. People raved about the rich savory pork broth and the chewy, fresh tasting noodles. Also included in the bowl was half of a perfectly cooked egg – the whites tender and the yolk custardy. Although one person still ranked San Mateo’s Ramen Dojo as the top ramen spot in the Bay Area, the rest of us were perfectly satisfied with our meal and would definitely return again.
In Japanese, an izayaka is a casual place to grab a drink and small plates of food. Izayaka Sozai‘s chef and owner Ritsu Osuka said he envisioned his restaurant to be a popular neighborhood spot. It certainly looks that way – as I was finishing up my meal, a small line of people had formed at the entryway, eagerly eying my emptying table—and bowl.
1500 Irving Street (at 16th)
ATMOSPHERE: Cozy 35-seat restaurant
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Ritsu Tonkotsu Ramen, skewers
DRINKS: Sake, oolong tea, sodas
PRICE RANGE: Two skewers ($5), Ramen ($9)
HOURS: Mon, Wed-Thurs, Sun: 5:30pm-10pm. Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. Closed Tuesday.
RESERVATIONS: Yes. Sunset residents may leave a phone number and be notified when their table is ready.
PAYMENT Cash, Credit
Dawn Maxey is a second-year medical student.