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The Evolution of Uptown Oakland’s Itani Ramen

Sep 13, 2017 09:01AM ● Published by Fran Miller

Chef Kyle Itani at his Uptown Oakland spot, Itani Ramen

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

Kyle Itani’s successful ramen joint – Itani Ramen - in Uptown Oakland has enjoyed popularity since its opening a little more than a year ago. So why mess with success? The order-at-the-front and then take-a-seat formula has worked just fine. But Itani knew he could make a good thing even better, and thus, he switched to table service at dinner in order to provide a more relaxed and welcoming vibe for those seeking a full restaurant experience. “We are simply building on what has worked well for us and responding to the overall popularity of what guests have loved at the restaurant,” says Itani, who is also co-owner of Oakland’s Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar. “Now over a year in, we’ve been able to get to know what locals and visitors want and we’re addressing those things with the updates we’ve made to the restaurant.” 

The ‘slow-food’ dinner formula also features a new menu with expanded Izakaya-style appetizer choices and smaller plates to be shared. Wait staff are knowledgeable and patient in explaining more exotic dishes. The extensive yet easy to navigate menu includes popular Izakaya bites like Cucumbers n’ KimchiHouse Made Gyoza and Crispy Pig Ears; heavier dishes include a variety of seasonal ramen like the Miso Pork Ramen and Shoyu Chicken Ramen, as well as Donburi Rice Bowls such as the Chicken Katsu and Salmon 3 Way. A special rotating ramen, drawing inspiration from different prefectures of Japan, continues to be offered on the lunch and dinner menu. The restaurant’s popular dessert vending machine remains and features an assortment of Japanese desserts such as Pocky and Mochi. Later this fall, a full liquor license will allow for an expanded bar program to complement the already extensive selection of sake and shochu.

The restaurant’s design has also been updated to encourage relaxed lingering - a key to Izakaya style dining.  Functional simplicity translates to a cozy, warm, and inviting space that offers options for all diners. It’s a great space in which to take a date, meet a large group of friends, or grab a small plate and a drink before or after a show at the neighboring Fox Theater. A new façade features large wood-slatted windows and orange trim. The urban interior mixes Japanese functionality with a pre-existing Oakland aesthetic. The long-ago home of Woolworth’s, the space maintains its original 1930’s plaster columns, terrazzo floor, crown molding, and fading wallpaper and paint. Suspended steel shelving runs along the bar, blending form and function.

A newly designed back room with sleek, polished floors, is used for events and overflow seating and can accommodate 20 seated and 30 standing. Itani Ramen is open daily with new hours: lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m. - late-night. During lunch and dinner service, guests can order take-out through Caviar.

 Itani Ramen: 1736 Telegraph Avenue: Oakland

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