Not to land one last oblique punch on a place that sustained its fair share, but when Local’s Corner shuttered last fall, it came after angry neighbors all but burned the place to the ground. Sensitivity to Mission gentrification has only intensified since then, but if any place could soothe raw nerves, it might be The Spice Jar.
A pan-Asian noodle house on the corner of 23rd and Bryant Streets, it’s an affordable spot, with lunches in the $11-$14 range and draft beers for as little as $5. The most expensive bottle of wine (a 2012 Sonoma Cab) is only $36. Granted, it only takes one racially loaded encounter for everything to go to hell, but this is a great start to making friends.
As a chalk map of East Asia by the restroom — which was executed without cutting any corners on the Indonesian archipelago — demonstrates, noodles are everywhere. From Vietnamese pho to Korean naeng myun to Malay laksa, everything makes an appearance. The Spice Jar expertly combines this base with foodstuffs from elsewhere in the world to render a clever assortment of dishes, from albacore carpaccio to spinach and roasted garlic fried rice to a tofu Portobello steak made with panko and a Korean-inflected hanger steak with BBQ mush wraps. It’s Asian-fusion without showy gimmicks, the opposite of Fuzio’s universal pasta (R.I.P.).
And yes, there’s ramen: a tonkotsu-shoyu ramen with braised spare ribs and spinach, and a spicy sesame miso ramen with ground chicken and garlic chives. If you’d rather a zen noodle soup (coconut-based samal broth, calamari, shrimp, black mussels, and basil), it’s got just enough lime to mix with the chilies to hit that tangy-hot flavor dead center. Meanwhile, the vermicelli-based crispy calamari salad is a massive bowl of greens served with red chili honey which could easily be a stand-alone dinner, but it’s best with garlic aonori fries.
Light-filled, with enough seating for almost 30 people, and with Café du Monde chicory coffee cans holding napkins and silverware, the Spice Jar has some hipster accents amid the otherwise Japanese décor. If anyone sees them as an interloper, a sit-down over homemade mint ginger lemonade ought to bring lasting peace.
The Spice Jar, 2500 Bryant, 415-829-3668.