Iza Ramen | A Foodie Review

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YELP | SITE

NEIGHBORHOOD: LOWER HAIGHT

Steven and I have been coming to Iza Ramen since before we were even an official couple. And it’s probably the restaurant we’ve visited together the most in the whole city. There are several reasons why this is such a go-to for us:

  1. We always end up finding parking in this side of the Haight on one of the cross streets.
  2. No matter how crazy the wait looks on the outside of the restaurant, we always get seated relatively swiftly
  3. The service is very polite and consistent
  4. The food is great and always hits the spot.

If you’re a true city-slicker, you already know that even though the Upper Haight is filled with whimsical hippie charm and some incredible vintage shopping, it’s a little lame when it comes to its food game. It’s definitely overshadowed by the vibe and the selection of bars and restaurants one neighborhood away in the Lower Haight, which is past the park on Haight and Central and where Iza is located.

Of all the great places to eat in this quiet side of town, this is one of my favorite go-to’s. It is a sister restaurant to Blowfish: Sushi to Die For  (check out my review on that,) but of course specializes in Ramen and Japanese-inspired fusion appetizers. Now, let’s get to some mouth-watering examples of what to order from this place.

 

FOR STARTERS

For starters, (no pun intended,) let’s talk about Steven and my recent discoveries off of the appetizer menu. We were absolutely starving after long days at work the last time we visited, and decided we couldn’t wait for our ramen to start chowing down. So we each chose an appetizer we hadn’t yet ordered and shared them. His choice was the Karaage Fried Chicken from the hot appetizer side of the menu, and mine was the Salmon Tartar with Tortilla Chips from the cold menu section. Both were absolutely delicious and the perfect size to curb our hunger pangs, but leave us with room for soup.

For starters, (no pun intended,) let’s talk about Steven and my recent discoveries off of the appetizer menu. We were absolutely starving after long days at work the last time we visited, and decided we couldn’t wait for our ramen to start chowing down. So we each chose an appetizer we hadn’t yet ordered and shared them. His choice was the Karaage Fried Chicken from the hot appetizer side of the menu, and mine was the Salmon Tartar with Tortilla Chips from the cold menu section. Both were absolutely delicious and the perfect size to curb our hunger pangs, but leave us with room for soup.

The Salmon Tartare (above left) was light and refreshing, with a delicious aioli-type sauce to give extra flavor to the fish. And the fried chicken (above right) was incredibly inviting on a cold San Francisco evening. We both even started dipping our chicken into the aioli from the tartare. Steven asked me why they don’t just use that sauce with the chicken as well but then we realized why…it wouldn’t really fit the Japanese theme anymore. It’d be fried chicken with aioli dipping sauce. But whatever. Try both of these if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.

 

THE RAMEN

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Now we get to the real reason why people line up on Fillmore Street and brave the cold to get into this place every evening. It is no surprise to Steven and me that this place is packed with people at all hours of the night and even are still seating people ten minutes before closing time. It’s because in addition to some great customer service, a groovy location and some great appetizers, they truly excel at their specialty. The ramen here is delicious. The texture of the noodles is fantastic, the marinated egg is perfectly cooked, the pork is tender and has just the right amount of fat, their nori is tasty and most notably, their base is very thick and saturated in flavor. Steven and I have both noted that we have never tasted richer ramen base in our lives. For some, it can be too much (not for me though.) And you can of course choose your level of spiciness in your ramen as well. Steven always goes for the Spicy Iza Ramen bowl, (pictured at top of page,) and I always go for the regular (or mild) Iza Ramen bowl. We’ve had it about a dozen times now and it never disappoints or gets old.

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EGG ON THE SIDE

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Here’s a little fun anecdote about this restaurant and my relationship with Steven. We first discovered this restaurant on Yelp back before we were a couple. Our plan was to get dinner in the Lower Haight and then go see our first movie together, which was Snowden starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. After scarfing down a bowl of ramen each, he realized that the soup base was just a bit too rich for him combined with the marinated egg they plop on top, that he almost was too sick to go to the movie with me. We went for a walk along Haight Street where I told him stories of how we used to party back when I worked on the street. He eventually started feeling better, and we did end up seeing the movie. We had a great time laughing at how awkward the film was at times, and realized that evening how much we truly had in common when it came to our love for film and greater love for critiquing film. Now we watch movies together every week so he can update his movie review channel. And like I said, despite his not feeling well the first time, Iza is still one of our favorite restaurants to go to together. He still orders his soup spicy, but now it’s tradition that he ask for his egg on the side…so that I can eat it instead.

But now you know why around our house we have a saying that goes “Iza? Yes please-a.” Thanks so much for checking out this review and please give me a like on Facebook for more San Francisco food reviews!