Vegan Friendly: BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar in San Diego's East Village
The Veg Foodie, Kelly Bone, is on the hunt for restaurants and bars whose vegan options aren't just after-thoughts. This week she checks out the plant-based menu at BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar in the East Village.
The Short and Skinny
Quivering curls of springy ramen noodles bathed in a creamy vegan both and inventive vegan buns await under the hospitable gaze of the East Village’s BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar.
Sunlight streams through the floor to ceiling glass walls into the modern interior of BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar. Stamped tin tiles and Gaslamp-style pendants line the far wall, reflecting the historic core of the city. Above a matte black counter, large windows provide an open view into the kitchen where steaming curls of noodles slip into deep bath of carefully crafted broths. Rustic wood tables and steel-backed chairs are set under an industrial steel rack neatly lined with sake bottles.
Owner Ayaka Ito, a certified sake master, opened BESHOCK in 2016, but the journey to get into this space was a long and winding one.
Ito spent nearly three years traveling thought over 100 ramen houses in Japan to learn the craft. Though her eyes were always focused on San Diego, she built her first ramen house—Three Little Pigs—in her hometown of Nagoya, Japan, a sister ramen shop—or “ramen lab” as Ito calls it—where she developed the recipes that would become the cornerstones of her East Village restaurant.
The deep wooden tables throughout the restaurant are teaming with vegan options. Brussel sprouts roasted in shichimi (a Japanese condiment traditionally composed of red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, pepper, ginger, and seaweed) are finished with a breath of lemon and a wild knot of chili threads.
Glossy folds of steamed white buns cradle pan fried tofu and veggies with a slick of sweet eel sauce in the off-menu Tofu Bun.
The star of the show is a creamy vegan ramen, which represents a union of San Diego and Japan. While the restaurant has always offered a vegan ramen, it was head waiter—and house vegan—Bailee, who’s tinkering lead to the award winning bowl on offer today. The rich soy milk base is boosted by shio kogi—a thick, fermented rice malt that sharpens sweet and salty flavors with a roar of umami—and piled high with crisp vegetables and soft tofu. The depths of the bowl cradle thick crinkles of custom-made Chijire noodles from Sun noodles (gluten-free and spinach noodles are also available).
The Bottom LIne
Ito encourages the development and empowerment of her staff (nearly half the crew has been with BESHOCK since opening), and it shows in a menu that combines perfected, traditional Japanese technique with the creative, delta spirit of California plant-based cooking.
BESHOCK recently signed a lease on a Carlsbad location, so keep an eye out for their new space, which is slated to open in winter of 2018.
What to Order
The Creamy Vegan Ramen ($12) is a soy milk-based ramen that comes loaded with tofu, baby corn, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli.
The Tofu Bun ($8 for 2, $6 for 2 during happy hour) is stuffed with fried tofu, lettuce, tomato, and onion under a confetti of garlic chips and glossy swaths of sweet eel sauce.
Under a halo of translucent lotus root chips, the Be Vegan Sushi Roll ($15) holds tempura asparagus, cucumber, avocado, pickled burdock root, and radish in pink soy paper topped with silky mashed avocado and halved cherry tomatoes with a lacy poof of frisee lettuce lightly dressed in sesame sweetness.
Pro Tip: While the Creamy Vegan Ramen is pretty perfect as is, a swirl of Black Garlic Oil adds beauty and depth to the broth.
1288 Market Street, East Village, San Diego
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11:30am-9:30pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30am-10:30pm