Last week, for the fun of it, I started to reduce a shoyu mixture to copy a technique that is common in soba flavorings. Little did I know that blending it with my shoyu tare and chicken soup would trigger a memory of a bowl I once had. The deep shoyu-colored broth and dark staining of the noodles reminded me of a familiar Toyama Black style with hints of Shinpukusaikan. So I spent a week trying to perfect it.
It’s still not perfect but it is definitely a bowl that appeared from my soul. I hope you like it.
Beginning Monday September 17, 2018.
Some might say my menu is too big, but I say it still needs to be bigger.
First and foremost, I am a fan of ramen and I like to copy styles that I’ve tried in the past–mostly the styles we can’t get here in New York. Hate it or love it, you’ll always have something else to come back and try.
On the new B-side will be the weekday specials. Tsukemen Tuesdays and Iekei Wednesdays have played a special role for awhile now so I thought I’d challenge myself and have a special bowl for everyday of the week (excluding weekends but who knows?? I may have leftovers). This is going to be fun. Forgive me if we crash and burn. Haha.
A few items (Tsukune Chicken Ramen Burger and Mini Rice Dishes) may or may not be available the first week, so I guess we can call this a soft run. (If you’re lucky, I could make you my guinea pig.)
We made it! Slowly, we will get bigger and better. It’s not easy running 3 different companies at the same time but all 3 are necessary for my vision. Fear of failure is always imminent (for I have failed on many occasions), though I’ve always seemed to struggle for the right reasons with some force of luck managing to pick me up. I still don’t know what the future holds, but it’s there…I feel it.
For years, Ramen Burger has been my prize creation. For years, Ramen Burger has been its own dominant force in the summer. For years, Ramen Burger’s dominance would dissipate in the winter. For years, FIVE years, we waited for it to be summer.
They said we needed to act fast and cash in on the attention. I said we needed to be more patient and build a foundation. They said the hype was luck and would die fast and short. I said the hype was bred to live slow and long.
We missed out on opportunity. We didn’t act fast enough. We let them copy us. We are the losers.
I am still here. I put in 80 hours when everyone else was putting in 40. I tried to stay true to my prophecy.
Yet, I am not a success and still one step from failure.
But for what it’s worth, Ramen Shack has become the perfect complement to Ramen Burger. As I had imagined it would.
Five years later, Ramen Shack has matched the monthly sales of Ramen Burger, albeit in the middle of summer. Yes Ramen Shack is open more days and 50 times more work to maintain, but inside I feel like we are finally making progress.
I can’t wait for it to be winter.
The Ramen Shop recipe encapsulates all other recipes. It’s not just about the food. It’s not just about the people. It’s not just about the ambiance. It’s all of these arranged in a consistent fashion that makes a ramen shop THAT ramen shop.
When I was living in Tokyo, I used to live near a very average ramen shop that had been around a very long time and because it was literally 30 seconds from my home I found myself eating there way too often. Somedays, I would even go in my pajamas and the friendly staff would always be there to welcome me. It was my comfort when I was happy, my comfort when I was sad, and my comfort when I just needed to see a friendly face. The ramen wasn’t great, but the shop itself was one of my favorites.
Then one day, I stepped in and there was no one there to greet me. Strange music playing in the background. No sense of comfort. After seating myself I was finally brought a menu by someone I had never seen before. The menu was the same. The ramen may have been the same, but nothing felt right. I felt lost. The bowl was sloppy. The taste was salty. There was way too much vinegar. The temperature wasn’t scolding hot. The ac was damaged. The smell of cigarette smoke was still lingering. The floor was sticky . The newspaper on the table next to me was more than a week old. The pitcher of water had no ice. The tissue box was empty. Where was I?
I went back a few more times and each time just wasn’t what it used to be. I decided to stop going, not because of the food (the food was never that great anyway), but because my comfort had suddenly become my pain. I stopped craving it. I yearned for something else. I began to move on.
Two years after I moved away, I found myself in the neighborhood and decided to pass by. The ramen shop was gone. The entire building was gone. In its place was someone’s brand new modern house with a bmw parked in its garage. I began to crave the bowl that once was. The one that was etched in my memory. The one that wasn’t very good but came with a smiling face. The one that got me out of bed after fighting a 4-day flu. The one that was sloppy, salty, sour, and lukewarm. The one where the ac never worked. The one where cigarette smoke lingered heavily. The one with the sticky floor. The one with the week-old newspaper. The one with the ice-less pitcher of water. The one that was never the one in the first place. I missed the one as it used to be whole. I really needed that tissue.
The ramen shop recipe had been broken, never to be fixed again.
A sweet, refreshing, no-frills, old-school shoyu ramen at Suzuki Shokudo in Astoria. Ramen is only a fraction of the menu and not their specialty. While the flavor was short of amazing, the feeling of it took me back 30 years.
A once-in-a-lifetime ramen school will be coming to New York in November. This will be a 5-day course jam-packed with knowledge and several key can’t-find-anywhere ramen recipes. Taught primarily by my mentor Koitani-san, I will also be on hand to share with you my decade of ramen knowledge. This is one course you don’t want to miss. A huge additional benefit will be mentorship for life from the both of us.
If only there was a course like this when I was starting out. You guys are so lucky!
Date: November 13th to 17th.
Time: 10:30am-4:30pm. (optional operation training 5pm-9pm)
Curriculum: 5 different kinds of Broth, Tare, Toppings, Aroma Oils, and Noodles.
Price: send email to email@example.com
Lodging: Price includes hotel accommodation.
Benefits: Learning the value of making ramen from scratch in a scalable, efficient manner while understanding techniques and applying them to your everyday life.
Extra benefit: Ramen friends for life.
Special appearance from Brian MacDuckston of Ramen Adventures