Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Fresno lands a new Chipotle, ramen restaurant

Chipotle opened Thursday, May 21 at Fashion Fair, part of the mall’s changes to its food court.
Chipotle opened Thursday, May 21 at Fashion Fair, part of the mall’s changes to its food court. THE FRESNO BEE

Chipotle Mexican Grill has opened in the Fashion Fair mall food court.

It’s one of several changes in the food court that have been happening behind barricades over the past few months.

Now those barricades are gone and things look a bit different.

The kids’ play area has been moved from the main part of the mall to the food court.

There’s also an additional entrance to the food court and new outdoor seating with bright red and yellow umbrellas. You can see a video of the changes at www.fresnobee.com/living.

Chipotle is on the far end of the food court next to Panda Express. It will be open the same hours as the mall, starting at 10 a.m. most days.

It will be interesting to see just how busy it gets. The other Chipotle locations in Fresno and Clovis often get lines out the door at dinnertime. That could be because its food is a relatively healthy version of fast food or the chain’s emphasis on sustainable food (the chain recently announced it would no longer use ingredients with genetically modified organisms in its food).

But will a mall-based Chipotle — the first such arrangement in the area — draw only shoppers, or is its appeal enough to lure diners from the neighborhood who come to the mall for only that reason?

Ramen restaurant

Ramen noodles are a trend that has hit San Francisco and Los Angeles hard, but it is still finding its footing in Fresno.

I’m talking about the squiggly Japanese noodles used in big bowls of soup with pork or chicken and fresh veggies, not the cheapo Top Ramen packages you may remember from being broke in college.

Fresno has a new ramen restaurant in town, Ramen Bar Ichiban, at 5730 N. First St., Suite 114. It’s in the same shopping center as Save Mart at Bullard Avenue, and, oddly, the same shopping center as another restaurant that serves ramen, S21 Sushi & Sake Bar. (Rock & Noodles on West Shaw Avenue also serves a lot of ramen.)

Chef Masafumi Itoh — you can call him Masa — opened the new Ichiban after working as a sushi chef for 40 years. You may remember him or his food from his time at Kame Sushi House on Shaw Avenue before it closed.

Apparently 40 years in the high-stress restaurant industry wasn’t enough for Masa: “Ramen is my dream. When I retire I want to open a ramen restaurant.”

So he did and now makes his own fresh ramen noodles served in giant bowls with spoons and chopsticks (or forks if you want). This is an American style ramen, he says.

The Tonkotsu ramen is the most popular, with barbecued pork, corn, a hardboiled egg, bamboo shoots and more.

Masa also points out the milky ramen, described as a “milk soup” on the menu, with barbecue pork, egg, corn and green onion.

“Most times people say ‘Ew, milky?’” before getting up the nerve to try it, he says. Then they promptly order it again because they love it, he adds.

The restaurant also has vegetarian options. And there’s dishes like the “Fresno carbonara,” which is essentially carbonara sauce made from egg and cheese that usually is served over pasta, but in this case is mixed into the soup.

You can also get your ramen with a rice bowl on the side.

Ichiban means “No. 1” in Japanese, by the way.

The restaurant is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It’s closed on Tuesdays.

Details: (559) 999-3580.

Pieology

The influx of Pieology Pizzeria restaurants continues. The latest location of the customizable, unlimited toppings pizza chain is open at the Marketplace at El Paseo. That’s the new shopping center near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue.

In case you missed my story last week, a Pieology is coming to the Trading Post Shopping Center at Clovis and Herndon avenues next year, one of the center owners says.

A Sprouts Farmers Market will also move into the old Save Mart grocery store there.

Weekend food news

By now you’re probably familiar with The Fresno Bee’s changes, including the new stand-alone Food & Drink section this column runs in.

Since many of you are foodies looking for things to do and try on the weekends, we’ve also added a Food & Drink page to our regular weekly 7 entertainment section.

There, you can read about events centered around food or drinks, or certain cuisines you may want to check out.

But the bulk of food and restaurant coverage, including new restaurants and the stories restaurateurs share, will remain right here on Wednesdays.

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