Noodle in a Haystack: San Francisco’s Most Unique Tasting Menu

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There aren’t many restaurants that can knock every single dish on a tasting menu out of the park, but Noodle in a Haystack can.

Clint and Yoko Tan started a pop-up in the bay area in 2015, and turned that into Noodle in a Haystack: a now brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened in 2022 on a nondescript corner of Inner Richmond in San Francisco.

At the restaurant, doors open for dinner at 6pm sharp and you’re immediately welcomed into a bright space with an L-shaped counter and 12 seats, making for an intimate dinner. 

As you’re seated, you’ll realize that everything happens right in front of you – dishes are prepped, cooked and plated right in the middle of the room, with Clint and Yoko in the midst of it all. 

The atmosphere is friendly, fun and personable, and it really does feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s house. The staff is friendly, and Clint and Yoko also make their rounds multiple times throughout the meal to present dishes and simply have a conversation. It’s refreshing and enjoyable.

They also clearly do everything with heart and it shows through their food and the atmosphere they’ve created in the restaurant. Each dish that comes our way is complex and flavorful, and their spins on ramen are like nothing I’ve ever seen or tasted before (even after visiting Japan a few years ago). 

We had their extended tasting menu in December 2023 which consisted of a total of nine dishes. The ramens and other dishes on the menu change with the seasons and with Clint and Yoko’s creativity. 

The meal opened with a double-baked financier topped with smoked shoyu crème fraîche and Tsar Nicoulai Golden Reserve caviar. This was one of our favorite bites. The double-baked financier was crunchy but chewy and sweet and was such a beautiful contrast to the shoyu crème fraîche and caviar. 

Double-baked financier topped with smoked shoyu crème fraîche and Tsar Nicoulai Golden Reserve caviar at Noodle in a Haystack.

Next was a “ramen-ified” chawanmushi: an egg custard dish seasoned with ramen tare (the base of ramen), with Hokkaido uni, scallop, chicken, XO sauce and mitsuba.

Chawanmushi with Hokkaido uni, scallop, chicken, XO sauce and mitsuba at Noodle in a Haystack.

Then we went into our first bowl of noodles: a chilled A5 wagyu tan tan men. The A5 wagyu was beautifully smoked and imparted that smoky flavor while it melted in your mouth. 

Chilled A5 Wagyu tan tan men

Clint and Yoko were finalists in Osaka’s World Ramen Grand Prix in 2017, and the noodles used in this dish (and the one later) speak to that. They’re the perfect texture of soft but chewy and carry the sauce nicely in the tan tan men. 

A salad was served next with their “vejigrette” dressing and a 16-hour pork belly karaage that was also melt-in-your-mouth tender. 

"Vejigrette" salad with 16-hour pork belly karaage

The pickles of the day came out next with persimmon kimchi. Both acted as a nice palate cleanser and break in the meal before the next ramen. 

Pickled cucumbers
Persimmon kimchi

The second ramen of the night was a Tom Yum Paitan topped with a prawn, minced pork, cilantro and aged onion. The broth was a combination of two broths: a prawn tom yum and an eight-hour whole chicken paitan. Needless to say, this broth was complex and had a deep umami flavor. The noodles used in this ramen were slightly different to the one earlier to account for the flavors and the broth. And it was the perfect noodle for this ramen. 

Tom Yum Paitan ramen

The first of two dessert courses was served next. A light and fluffy yuzu shaved ice on top of “almond tofu” (a soft, jellied Chinese dessert) and a golden kiwi preserve. 

Yuzu shaved ice on top of "almond tofu" and a golden kiwi preserve.

We wrapped up dinner with a dorayaki with chantilly, burnt caramel, and salted brown butter crumble all sandwiched between a shoyu honey mirin pancake (that Yoko makes from scratch). 

Dorayaki at Noodle in a Haystack

Everything on the menu was a delight and we can’t wait to go back to Noodle in a Haystack for another meal, and to try different items on their menu! 

Reservations for Noodle in a Haystack release on the second Sunday at 9pm PT for the following month. Check their website to learn when reservations are released on Tock

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