What now?

They warned me. I didn’t listen. Ten years. Pure passion. Epic success. Intolerable failure.

This blog needs more content.

We used to be so pure.

I wrote this on the plane back from San Francisco:

Unfinished. When will it ever end? When should it end?

Not today.

Ramen Shack – THE END

In the beginning, there was a yearning need to output my growing frustrations on being solely known as the creator of the Ramen Burger. Or so I thought.

Instinctively, I always just wanted to be a ramen freak. Then, with Ramen Burger at its prime, I chose to follow my heart, like I always have.

July 11, 2015 –Opening Day at the now defunct Queens Smorgasburg. Photo by Georgia Frierson.

What began as a pop up idea that never materialized at my friend Neil Syham’s Lumpia Shack on the days he didn’t open (hence the name Ramen Shack), the concept of Ramen Shack 屋台 started gaining momentum. For several months, I envisioned a ramen shop that could finally portray the joys of my passion. For several months, it remained just a figment of my imagination.

Classic Shoyu. Photo by Akira Hiratsuka.

Then, in the summer of 2015, through the power of Smorgasburg I was able to translate imagination to fascination as Ramen Shack took shape in unfamiliar territory. Although the Queens Smorgasburg only lasted half a season, I became infected with the pure joy of being able to serve delicate bowls of evolving ramen every week to those who embraced a simple comfort.

Ramen Shack Pop Up at Lumpia Shack in the West Village. Photo by Akiro Hiratsuka.

After a successful move to Winter Smorgasburg at Industry City in the Winter of 2015, we finally landed at Lumpia Shack in the West Village, carrying out the intended concept of popping up every Sunday and Monday. But that didn’t last very long and for months the pop up went dormant, giving way to another concept called Tsukemen NYC. Ramen Shack was over. Or was it?

Ramen Shack at Go Ramen Go Life, Inc. in Long Island City, NY. Photo by Michael Marquand.

Sixteen months after our last pop up, Ramen Shack was reopened as a “permanent pop up” in Long Island City on September 27, 2016. It was a dream come true. For the next two and a half years it became my creative outlet. My ramen force. My ramen reckoning. If you had the chance to experience it evolve throughout those years, you’ve probably never seen a ramen shop like it. I was possessed!

Pop Up Sign. Photo by Michael Marquand.

When is this pop up going to end?” has been the question almost everyone has asked. In my mind…it was never going to end. In my mind…it was going to last forever. But in the end, I chose to follow my heart…

A sober 2018…

On December 31, 2017, 11 minutes before midnight, with one can of Sapporo left in the fridge, I decided to quit drinking alcohol for one year. Why, you ask? Well I’ll get to that, but first let me tell you about my addiction.

I have one addiction. To ramen. No surprise there right? But for most of my adult life, I also enjoyed drinking a few (to many) beers after work to de-stress from my busy workload, even if it meant just zoning out with a six-pack alone on the couch at the end of a long day. It sort of kept me alive.

In all those years, never did I imagine I would (or could for that matter) give up drinking. The cycle was always work hard, drink beer, sleep it off, work hard, drink beer, forget to sleep, work hard, drink shochu–day after day after day. 

Then, a few things happened on that New Year’s Eve. While watching the events leading up to the countdown on television, my 3-year-old daughter slipped while dancing around the living room and fell face-flat onto the hardwood floor, resulting in cuts on both lips. Her face bloodied and screaming uncontrollably, my wife and I panicked. At this time I was already 6 or 7 beers in and even if I felt sober there was no way for me to get in a car and drive her to the emergency room. Fortunately, the cuts were minor and she was able to fall asleep that night without any long-lasting injuries.

For me, I felt useless. I needed to be more responsible as a parent. I needed to be more responsible as a husband. I needed to be more responsible as a friend, as well as, a boss. So I accepted the challenge and left that last can of Sapporo in the fridge.

At first, my friends thought I was crazy. They knew me and they all thought it was some kind of joke. But I’m a pretty stubborn scorpio/snake so I knew, and they soon realized, that this was a serious goal. Another motivational force, was trying to operate and manage three different businesses primarily on my own. I felt that 2018 would be the year that needed 100% of my focus: Full control of my vision and a level-headed direction of resources.

All this said, 2018 was filled with never-ending drama. If there was ever a year that I should have been drinking, this was the year. I resisted.

For the most part, I navigated and parsed out all of the negativity and fought each battle one day at a time. Then September came and October-November became almost unbearable. Honestly, it was a struggle. After deciding to apply for life insurance, a routine blood test resulted in an abnormality in my liver. 

At first, my doctor brushed it off as maybe too much alcohol intake in recent days, but NO! I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in nine months! So she ordered a bunch of tests and I spent the majority of October and November trying to juggle work, family, doctor visits, and more work, including spending a majority of my 41st birthday (one day before the start of Rajuku NY) in an exam room being prodded and pricked like an expectant mother.

As of this writing, every other test has come back normal and it is still a mystery as to why the abnormality still exists. It could be a myriad of things and we’ll just have to keep checking one test at a time, one day at a time. For now, I feel as healthy as a 20-year-old and I can’t wait to keep building my ramen dream.

My decision to quit drinking was never for health reasons, but ironically maybe it really was. If I hadn’t have quit, perhaps my health could have gotten a lot worse. One year without drinking may have been the best decision of my life. One year to get more years. It sort of kept me alive.

And here we are today, December 31, 2018. I’ve accomplished my goal: One year without any alcohol. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked this year and there will be no slowing down from here on out. In 2019, I will need to work even harder. Many of you, including myself, were looking forward to raising a glass together, but it looks like I’ll be keeping that last can of Sapporo in the fridge a little bit longer. One addiction is more than enough. Cheers to 2019. Let’s make it a good one.

Queensbridge Black

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.

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It’s still not perfect but it is definitely a bowl that appeared from my soul.  I hope you like it.

Menu Changes – Ramen Shack NYC

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.

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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.

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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.)

Made in NYC

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.

https://madeinnyc.org/company/shimamoto-noodle-inc/

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