Last fall, we broke the news that Emeryville Public Market’s Shiba Ramen would be expanding into Oakland. That new location, in the old Bittersweet Café location at 1438 Broadway, will hold its soft opening on Tuesday.
Co-owner Jake Freed estimates that the restaurant will operate with limited dinner hours for the next couple of weeks before adding lunch service.
Freed and his wife and business partner Hiroko Nakamura have hired Danny Keiser as lead chef for both Shiba Ramen locations. Keiser previously spent five years at Oakland’s Camino and a year living in Japan. “He is a motivated, talented guy [and] great fit for our business,” said Freed.
Keiser has been working with Freed and Nakamura for a few months now, and he has already introduced a few new dishes at the Emeryville location: a shoyu-style ramen called “Clear Dark” and spicy radish pickles. He’s also developed a crispy tofu that will appear at the Oakland location. More dishes, like rice bowls and fried chicken sandwiches, will come, said Freed, once Keiser has the time for recipe development.
The 40-seat fast-casual Oakland location builds off of the Emeryville kiosk, with an expanded menu and a stronger focus on beer and sake. While customers will still order at the counter at the Oakland location, there will be servers delivering food, which will be served in more traditional ceramic bowls.
Freed and Nakamura worked extensively on the design of the restaurant, which includes a range of seating options like tall standing counter tables where diners can eat standing, as many do in Japan. It also has carried over the Emeryville location’s use of Japanese asanoha tile patterns, which appears in a large mosaic created with the help of designer Misa Grannis. A large, undulating slatted wooden structure, designed by LMNOP Design, hangs from the ceiling, along with both Japanese-style and coral-like lighting fixtures.
Back in Emervyille, the couple is getting close to starting construction on their beer and sake bar, The Periodic Table, which will be located next to the original Shiba Ramen in the Public Market. Freed said they are finalizing their permits and should start construction in about two weeks.
The bar, which has been designed in its entirety by local firm Arcsine, will offer both local and Japanese beer in addition to an extensive sake selection. To pair with the drinks will be various small plates including, most notably, cheese plates. Yes, cheese with sake.
Cheese is not the first thing we think of to serve with Japanese spirits; the success of the pairing was a surprise to Freed as well. “It was a revelation,” he said, when when he and Nakamura tasted sake alongside cheeses, proscuitto, cured uni, and other “umami flavors” on a recent trip to Japan.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “We thought, ‘How is this not a thing?’ So we’re going to try and make it a thing here.”
Freed hopes — “fingers crossed” — to open The Periodic Table in May.