With so many Japanese restaurants opening and offering ramen—the food obsession of the moment—Brian Chen decided he needed to approach the scene differently. So, after 11 years cooking everywhere from Austin to Ohio (where he briefly owned a Thai fusion eatery), Chen is opening a no-fuss establishment that sells ramen exclusively: Ramen Jin, set to open softly
December 11 [Note: The owner asked us to keep this date published, but today announced that only snacks and rice bowls are available Dec. 11; Dec. 12 they'll have the ramen ready for the public.] There will be no robata grill, no sushi, only scratch-made broth and creative noodles, plus a tightly edited menu of small bites and a handful of desserts. Chen says that ramen is complicated enough to make, since each bowl is comprised of elements that have to be prepared separately: the meat grilled first, a few minutes for the noodles to boil, the broth simmering for hours and so on. So the ramen options will be limited to six, ranging from traditional soups to the more experimental: tonkotsu, miso, shoyu, sesame, curry and veggie. That non-traditional bowl of curry ramen will be as fussy as it gets around here, with desserts that include a matcha waffle and organic egg pudding served in the shells (pictured above). A small variety of "snacks" include appetizers like edamame, gyoza and gua bao (Taiwanese sticky buns filled with pork).
The restrained menu of options and stark simplicity extends to the minimalistic interior design of the space, with its bare-bones, unadorned banquettes and custom-designed utensil containers. Even the concept will be basic: order a bowl at the counter, take a number and find a seat.
While this place has been highly anticipated—due to its ramen-centric focus—the outside-the-loop location might make it a spot that diners have to plan for in advance. As far as more convenient upcoming ramen shops, Midtown's Jinya Ramen Bar (which has been confirmed to open at 3201 Louisiana), will be the flagship Houston location of that popular chain. Another location will be in Webster, since Jim Wang's expected Ichibon Japanese Seafood and Steakhouse will instead be another Jinya Ramen Bar. It seems that Wang has decided to go the way of the chain with that California-based group of ramen shops—although he hasn't contacted us back with details just yet. That Jinya Ramen Bar is estimated to open at 18299 Egret Bay Blvd.
Ninja Ramen is on the horizon, too. Originally set for an Austin location, the Facebook page now reads "Ninja hideout acquired. Look for us soon." A representative for the upcoming restaurant says that they will be opening in February on Washington. Their Twitter profile asks, "Should kaedama (extra noodles) be free when you order ramen?" (We think, yes. Please.) Check back for an update on this shop later this week.
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