Mensho, the Tokyo-based ramen shop that became iconic thanks to Tenderloin when it debuted in 2016, will soon appear in a row of restaurants on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue. If all goes well, a new American outpost, Mansho, will open in late spring, a collaboration between Marin County native Abram Plaut and Japanese ramen master Tomoharu Shono.
Even with Mansho’s buzzy reputation, there’s plenty to do at the new ramen bar. Mensho will move to its former location of Little Shin Shin, a family-style Chinese eatery that has anchored at the top of Piedmont Avenue for 40 years. As such, Plaut said the 1980s-era kitchen renovation took longer than expected. It originally planned to open in early 2023.
According to Plaut, the menu at the Oakland location will be significantly different from the menus at Mensho’s other two locations in San Francisco. Since it will be next door to the very popular vegan cafe Timeless Coffee, Shono-san, as Plaut calls him, is hard at work on a selection of plant-based ramen to complement his tonkotsu, wagyu and other bone broths.
Plaut noted that in America, ramen has historically been inextricably—and unfavorably—associated with dorm instant ramen. “There is still a reputation or stigma that ramen is unhealthy, salty or fatty. There is another side to ramen, but ramen can also be sublime, healthy, and refined.”
Tokyo-based Mensho Group operates approximately 10 ramen shops in Japan, as well as individual outlets in Shanghai, Bangkok and Delhi. Plaut, a Bay Area native, moved to the school across the Pacific and became a vocal ramen critic, by his count, having sampled the traditional soup at more than 3,000 restaurants. After meeting Shono-san, the two ramen experts joined forces to bring Mensho to California.
The Tenderloin restaurant opened at Giri and Leavenworth streets in 2016, and in 2021 the team opened a second outpost called Jikasei Mensho at Twitter headquarters. Shono-san and Plaut also operate a subsidiary called Menya Shono in San Rafael and Union City. Now Plaut is bringing world-class ramen to yet another Bay Area.
Before the pandemic, queues to get into San Francisco’s flagship Mensho restaurant were lined up on the sidewalk, both because of the ramen hype and the restaurant’s tiny size. Plaut told The Standard that the larger space in Oakland will give Shono-san the opportunity to set up a ramen lab where he can experiment with the shape.
“I feel like this will be the first time that Shono-san will be able to use his talents to the fullest,” he said. “I’m excited to show what real ramen can and should be.”
4258 Piedmont Ave, Auckland
Sarah Holtz can be reached in [email protected]