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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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Tokyo ramen shop to open first U.S. outpost in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Aug 18, 2017
Ramen Nagi, a Tokyo-born string of ramen shops, is planning to open its first United States location in downtown Palo Alto.

Ramen Nagi has filed planning applications with the City of Palo Alto at 541 Bryant St.

Satoshi Ikuta founded the first Ramen Nagi in 2004, according to the restaurant's website. He met Ryoichi Nishio, a "lieutenant" for the restaurant, in 2005 at a ramen competition, according to the website.

Since then, many locations throughout Asia — in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai, the Philippines and elsewhere — have opened, with more planned this year.

Stanley Ko, Nishio's business partner, said in an interview that Ramen Nagi is, "for ramen purists and ramen fans, one of the darlings of the ramen scene."


A bowl of Ramen Nagi ramen. Photo courtesy Ramen Nagi.

The restaurant reportedly won best Tokyo Ramen of the Year Award in 2013, according to news outlets. In a 2014 interview about one of the Philippines restaurant openings, Satoshi said he is "very particular with the richness of the soup broth, the taste and texture of the noodles and the quality of the ingredients."

Although the Ramen Nagi menu features traditional pork broth alongside squid ink, spicy miso and an Italian pesto-like version, Satoshi said that he doesn't consider his ramen "fusion."

"Ramen helps me communicate with people," he said in the interivew. "My way of reaching out to them is to use the most popular local ingredient the country has to offer. I also get inspired by the country's most popular dish." (A "Philippine ramen," he added, would feature crispy sisig.)

Why open Ramen Nagi's first U.S. restaurant in Palo Alto, versus somewhere like New York City or San Francisco?

Nishio has visited, Ko said, and "likes Palo Alto very much."


A planning application shows a rendering of proposed storefront modifications for Ramen Nagi's forthcoming Palo Alto location. Courtesy City of Palo Alto.

"We felt this was a good time to explore opportunities in the U.S. market," he said.

Dedicated ramen eateries are few and far between in Palo Alto. There's Dohatsuten on San Antonio Road and the recently opened Ichimi Ramen & Rolls on University Avenue.

Ko declined to share further details about the Palo Alto location's menu, which is still in the works. They're hoping to be open by early 2018. Stay tuned.

Comments

 +   4 people like this
Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 11:52 am

Question: how many calories are there in a typical restaurant ramen meal? We gave up on these places because fried appetizers + fatty pork soup + fatty pork meat + a bowl full of high-carbohydrate noodles just sounds really unhealthy. What is the reality? We tried some of the chicken ramen places and the flavor is not as satisfying.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm

"....best Tokyo Ramen of the Year Award"?

Wow, quite a high bar. And I've been to Ippudo NY which was fierce. This could be a real destination eatery once it opens.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

"We gave up on these places because fried appetizers + fatty pork soup + fatty pork meat + a bowl full of high-carbohydrate noodles just sounds really unhealthy."

It's not supposed to be health food. But it sure is good.

If you get a chance, watch the movie Tampopo. Web Link


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:34 pm

> Question: how many calories are there in a typical restaurant ramen meal? We gave up on these places because fried appetizers + fatty pork soup + fatty pork meat + a bowl full of high-carbohydrate noodles just sounds really unhealthy. What is the reality? We tried some of the chicken ramen places and the flavor is not as satisfying.

Don't forget the massive sodium content as well (for flavoring). In Japan, Ramen is cheap food akin to eating a hot dog at Costco in America.

Now the next question is...how much is Ramen Nagi going to be charging for a bowl of noodles with a slice or two of shitake mushrooms floating about? It wouldn't surprise me to see Palo Alto 'epicureans' paying $12+ a bowl for what they perceive as a 'taste of Japan'. *LOL*

My college days are over and so are the ramen days.



 +   4 people like this
Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

When I get a ramen craving, I go to Riowa in Mountain View. They also have excellent gyoza. This new place will have to beat them to get my business.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm


> Mark Silverman wrote:
>
> In Japan, Ramen is cheap food akin to eating a hot dog at Costco in America.

Not necessarily:

"The High Art of Ramen in Tokyo"

Web Link

"Tokyo chef fuels ramen renaissance with his Michelin-starred noodles"

Web Link


 +   8 people like this
Posted by john_alderman, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 4:09 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Mark Silverman - "My college days are over and so are the ramen days." Judging Ramen by Cup of Ramen is like judging PIzza by Mama Celeste. There is a hint of arrogance and ignorance around that claim.

Comparing it to processed food at a big box chain is also totally wrong. Ramen in Japan is often a small family run shop that puts a lot of love and care into the food, and use handmade ingredients. $8-12 a bowl.

Ryowa in Mountain View is good, as is Dohatsuten on San Antonio, but a downtown option would be great.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm

@Don
>Not necessarily:"The High Art of Ramen in Tokyo"
>"Tokyo chef fuels ramen renaissance with his Michelin-starred noodles"

There will always be a few exceptions but they are not reflective of the whole.

It's kind of like comparing a $75.00+ Wagyu burger to a Big Mac/Whopper/Jumbo Jack et al.

Ramen/Udon is the fast-food of Japan..."not that there's anything wrong with it."- Jerry Seinfeld.

Vietnamese Pho is another relatively inexpensive soup that some western diners often make a big deal out of. It's essentially street food and the local proprietors here are laughing all the way to the bank while their customers pay $10.00 a bowl for 40-cents worth of actual ingredients. Someday a pho cook may get his Michelin star as well...in Viet Nam.





 +   3 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 4:35 pm

@john_alderman
> Ramen in Japan is often a small family run shop that puts a lot of love and care into the food, and use handmade ingredients. $8-12 a bowl.

The key words...in Japan (and not necessarily in the USA).

Go to a ballgame there and you will see thousands of spectators eating vendor Ramen/Udon. It's the hot dog of Japan.

Speaking of hot dogs, there will always be exceptions as well (e.g. comparing a Dittmer's frankfurter to Nathans or Hebrew National). No comparison. I'll opt for a high-quality/well-made 'non-kosher' hot dog any day of the week and no one needs to know. *L*


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm


> It wouldn't surprise me to see Palo Alto 'epicureans' paying $12+ a bowl for what they perceive as a 'taste of Japan'.

Considering what he must be paying for his downtown Palo Alto rent, he'd better charge at least $12. And if it's really good ramen, I'll happily pay it.

If by 'taste of Japan' you mean really well done Japanese food, then: exactly. There's a lot of mediocre Japanese food in the Bay Area.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Kimber, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Wow, this is awesome! My husband and I have been talking about how the only thing missing in our downtown is a good ramen place. Can't wait for this!!!!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Bryan, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Yu-gen on Castro in MV is really good.

The pork-belly with a slab of fat is intentional and not meant to be a “health food".

Looking forward to another place to try or (maybe) frequent.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

So happy to hear about a new ramen place opening up in PA!


 +   10 people like this
Posted by john_alderman, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 18, 2017 at 11:29 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

I think this interview sums it up nicely:

----
Aside from people who think ramen is just instant noodles, what is the biggest misconception you see among non-Japanese when it comes to ramen?

The biggest misconception is that it's fast food and it's cheap. A lot of people equate ramen with being cheap food. It's a problem, especially in places like New York, where people see a bowl of ramen for $15 and think, “This is absurd."

The preparation of ramen takes vast amounts of time. The soup can take days, and prepping the noodles and everything else " it's really labor intensive. But when you go to a ramen shop it comes out to you quickly, so people kind of equate it with being a fast food.

They'll pay $20 for a pasta dish at an Italian restaurant, but then see ramen for $15 and think it's overpriced.
----


 +   5 people like this
Posted by R. Winslow, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 12:46 pm

The key to 'homemade' Ramen = toss that sodium loaded seasoning packet and use Swanson's Chicken or Beef Broth instead. Add chopped green onions/cilantro + tofu (or leftover chicken/beef) and lightly season with soy sauce.

While I rarely eat Ramen these days, it's something that is easily prepared at home.
No need to pay $12.00 + tax/tip for something so inherently simple.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm


> The key to 'homemade' Ramen = toss that sodium loaded seasoning packet and use Swanson's Chicken or Beef Broth instead. Add chopped green onions/cilantro + tofu (or leftover chicken/beef) and lightly season with soy sauce.

This might be noodle soup, but it's decidedly not ramen.

Web Link

If you're going to use off-the-shelf broth, at the very least stop by Nijiya market and get a Japanese soup base. It's not the same as broth from scratch, but at least it's in the right direction.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Also, ramen in Japan varies by region.

Web Link

My favorite is Hakata ramen, from Fukuoka.

Web Link


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Ray, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm

The comments about price and quality are amusing.

$12 a bowl isn't excessive. How much are people willing to pay for a bowl of pasta at an Italian restaurant? $18-$20 a dish per person when a simple spaghetti meal at home for an entire family is $1 for pasta, $3 for sauce, and a several dollars for some fresh vegetables? Why don't you compare that to a can of Chef Boyardee while you're at it?

The same comparisons can be made about spending $5 for a pastry from Manresa in Los Altos versus $5 for a pack of frozen croissants from Trader Joes. Each has their merits, and each has their audience.

My college days are over, and that only means days of eating (mostly) cheap foods are over. I'll happily pay more for better quality and a new dining experience.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Really?, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

>The key to 'homemade' Ramen = toss that sodium loaded seasoning packet and use Swanson's Chicken or Beef Broth instead. Add chopped green onions/cilantro + tofu (or leftover chicken/beef) and lightly season with soy sauce.


Really? Yuck.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 6:13 pm

QUOTE: "The key to 'homemade' Ramen..."

Perhaps the key is to avoid Ramen altogether unless you are a starving student and/or down to your last 25 cents. That packaged stuff isn't very healthy (pre-fried noodles + high sodium seasonings). As far as $12.00 'restaurant Ramen' is concerned, I can think of better ways of spending 12 bucks towards a more fulfilling meal (whether homemade or dining out).

Besides, what most 'white folks' don't realize is that 75-80% of these so-called 'authentic' Japanese restaurants and sushi bars around here are run by Koreans. *LOL* The joke's on them.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Mommy is a great cook, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 19, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Looks like mark Silverman is quite the food expert. Not only does he know that all restaurant owners are laughing at their patrons because they are selling food at such a profit. He also,knows exactly the nationality of all the restaurant owners in town. Plus he knows that ramen is not a fulfilling meal.
Maybe mark should have his wn food blog since he serves such pleasure from putting down restaurants and diners.
BTW! Mark, what does mommy make you for dinner each night?


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Noodle Monster, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 20, 2017 at 9:21 am

You can see in comments above a split between some whose instincts about Japanese ramen culture conjure "Tampopo" (required viewing on this topic anyway, besides being one of the classic food movies and entertaining in its own right, though I might skip the dental-office scene next time), vs. those who refer to instant noodles, "seasoning packets," and "Swanson's Chicken or Beef Broth." The Bay Area is lucky to have scores of real Japanese noodle houses (many using proud house broth recipes, long-simmered with combos of pork bones, poultry, shrimp, savory vegetables, etc). I have to mention: if you have no homemade broth you can still do much better from supermarket shelves than Swanson. This isn't 1955.

I don't know about "most 'white folks,'" but Mark Silverman appeared not to realize that the famous Bay-Area Korean-immigrant presence in (specifically) sushi restaurants doesn't extrapolate to every Japanese restaurant genre (what was that about somebody not knowing the joke's on them?). Ramen houses here tend to be Japanese cultural outposts, with Japanese-born management, Japanese language spoken, Japanese TV and newspapers, and often, mostly-Japanese clientele.

Melanie Wong on chowhound.com had an online list of the 80-odd Bay-Area ramen houses. I don't know if she still does this, but she would eat at each of them at least once and record impressions for comparison, it was good reading. Many well-regarded places are in the greater peninsula, especially in San Mateo, a major cluster in Santa Clara and west SJ, and (three and a half of them, since Yu-Gen does it mainly at lunchtime) downtown Mountain View. This new one on Bryant looks to be a great addition to Palo Alto, filling a need.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm

@Mommy is a great cook
>BTW! Mark, what does mommy make you for dinner each night?

Anything but take-out/restaurant Ramen. *ROFL*


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 20, 2017 at 12:46 pm

All kidding and sardonic comments aside, when it comes to an ethnic restaurants (i.e. Asian, Mexican, Italian, Indian et al), if I see diners of those particular backgrounds eating there I can assume the food is pretty good. And that probably goes for an authentic Ramen restaurant as well.

On the other hand, if I see a bunch of diners wearing cowboy hats, tie-dyes and/or tank-tops with flip-flops (i.e. an atypical customer with mundane and indiscriminating tastes), I'll generally assume that the food there is mediocre and non-authentic at best. Just another sweet and sour/enchilada/spaghetti/tandoori joint.

Then again, attire can be deceiving as PF Chang's does a pretty good business doing whatever it is they're doing. Colonel Chang and his coprorate investors are laughing all the way to the bank.*L*

Bon appetit to those who don't know any better.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by oogler, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 7:07 am

one slightly misguided person wrote:

>if I see diners of those particular backgrounds eating there I can assume the food is pretty good

this obvious method tends to work better in less culturally diverse parts of the country. there are a lot of well-travelled, well-informed foodies here. a restaurant even if initially well loved by their ethnic brethren will likely be eventually overrun by all the yelpers, chow hounders etc.

>diners wearing cowboy hats, tie-dyes and/or tank-tops with flip-flops (i.e. an atypical customer with mundane and indiscriminating tastes)

pretty shallow to judge people by what they wear - the bay area is totally casual with abounding intelligence and pedigrees. people often don't flaunt their wealth or their degrees to impress.

which is not to say bad food doesn't exist in the bay area, and that the social media can make stars out of mediocre restaurants. this one sounds interesting, and look forward to giving it a try.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Ramen Lover, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 7:47 am

My favorite Ramen restaurants: Ramen Tenma, Ramen Halu, and Ryowa.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by ol' homeboy, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Everyone loves Ramen


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Bill Wohler, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Bill Wohler is a registered user.

Yes!

I was hoping for a good ramen shop in Menlo Park, but I'll take one in Palo Alto.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Jack None, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 9:21 pm

I can visualaize the crazy yuppies standing in line right now to order the ramen and be the first to do that so that they can go down in the annals of history book of Palo Alto. It is the same group of people who lined up for Star WWars, Krispy creme donuts, iphones, ipads,etc.. and other garbage.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 22, 2017 at 11:19 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

You know you're old when you're still complaining about those yuppies (they are now collecting social security too). MIllennials are the current youths of disdain, and they do seem to like lining up for food.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Noodle Monster, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 23, 2017 at 9:24 am

A knowledgeable longtime online peninsula commentator on Japanese restaurants, and especially ramen houses, complained several years ago of hipster hordes crowding each fashionable new ramen restaurant; his complaint was, for all their visible zeal they apparently didn't know ramen, all rigidly following the then-recent fad for tonkotsu (pork-bone) broth, and often confusing the word with tonkatsu or katsu-ratsu (fried breaded cutlets) when writing. The "ramen snob... who only know ramen from what the crowds or Japanese TV drama people are eating... every single ramen review of theirs praises the MSG enhanced salty fatty porky boney broth (tonkotsu, not tonkatsu), skips the other kinds of broths, neglects the quality of noodles and condiments."

Ramen isn't novel to Palo Alto. There's Dohatsuten, though not near either of PA's "downtowns" and it seems to me less than 100% ramen house (comparing some of those up and down the peninsula). Ramen Club didn't last, but I understand it wasn't very Japanese ("Mandarin was heard from the kitchen").


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Noodle Monster, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 23, 2017 at 9:31 am

Correcting my typing: katsu-retsu


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 23, 2017 at 11:23 am

> Ramen Club didn't last, but I understand it wasn't very Japanese ("Mandarin was heard from the kitchen").

That's what some of these 'gourmet' fools don't get. Asian cuisine is easily faked.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by midtown architect, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 23, 2017 at 10:50 pm

those are very odd dimensions... must have been translated from metric...


 +   2 people like this
Posted by MAY Fail, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 25, 2017 at 8:16 am

The last time we had a ramen restaurant in Palo Alto, it was near the Mtn View border.

It was exce3llent: excellent food and variety, excellent service, very authentic (I have lived in Japan twice). The owners were from the Akasaka prefecture of Tokyo.

We went there twice, enjoyed it immensely, but when we went back a third time, it had closed.

This wonderful Japanese ramen restaurant had gone out of business in only four months!

Looking back, there were usually 0-1 other couples besides us!

I suspect that Americans are not willing to pay good money for what they "think" they can get at home!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by MAY Fail, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 25, 2017 at 8:24 am

Incidentally, in Tokyo at least, ramen is considered "poor people's food", as are noodles of any kind.

When you visit Japan, a host will NEVER take a guest to a noodle or ramen restaurant. It is considered impolite at best--a thinly veiled insult at worst!

If I wanted ramen or noodles (which I prefer to rice in any form, unless it's brown), I had to go alone. Japanese friend always wanted to take me to sushi or yakatori restaurants!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 25, 2017 at 8:44 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara is usually rated as one of the top Ramen restaurants in the Bay Area, and every visit I've every made there proves why. There is ALWAYS a line out the door, and the Ramen is STUNNING.

The quality of Ramen is all in the Broth and theirs is outstanding.

WRT to Ramen in Japan it is VERY neighborhood driven. Near our offices in Shijuku, the top choice was Ramen Yamaguchi in Takadanobaba. I quite frankly prefer Soba w/Unagi over Ramen while in Japan....but that's just me!

I will enjoy having a local shop to visit instead of driving to Santa Clara for a Ramen fix!

Roy "Sakana-san" Thiele-Sardina


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ramen is OK but No Big Deal, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 25, 2017 at 9:29 am

> Incidentally, in Tokyo at least, ramen is considered "poor people's food", as are noodles of any kind

Ramen might be better served as 'street food' like a hot dog vendor. About $6.00 would be a reasonable price for a bowl of noodles.

> When you visit Japan, a host will NEVER take a guest to a noodle or ramen restaurant. It is considered impolite at best--a thinly veiled insult at worst!

Except in Palo Alto where the 'cultured' folks don't know any better.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Don, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 25, 2017 at 10:11 am

MAY Fail wrote:

> When you visit Japan, a host will NEVER take a guest to a noodle or ramen
> restaurant. It is considered impolite at best--a thinly veiled insult at worst!
> Japanese friend always wanted to take me to sushi or yakatori restaurants!

Unless you let your Tokyo friends know you're serious about Japanese food. If you're lucky you'll go to places like these:

Web Link

Or somewhere for okonomiyaki or monjayaki, or oden, or tonkatsu, or tempura, or izakaya, or... (the joys of Japanese food, in Japan, are endless)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by David T, a resident of another community,
on Sep 27, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Nagi Ramen is legit. Rated best ramen in Tokyo a few years ago, with outposts throughout Japan, Taiwan, China and the Philippines due to insane popularity and growth. Cited in Bloomberg magazine as one of the best global ramen shops in the world just earlier this year. Exciting times for food in Palo Alto for sure! As a longtime Bay Area resident, couldn't be happier Ramen Nagi chose to come to Palo Alto.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by David T, a resident of another community,
on Sep 27, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Nagi Ramen is legit. Rated best ramen in Tokyo a few years ago, with outposts throughout Japan, Taiwan, China and the Philippines due to insane popularity and growth. Cited in Bloomberg magazine as one of the best global ramen shops in the world just earlier this year. Exciting times for food in Palo Alto for sure! As a longtime Bay Area resident, couldn't be happier Ramen Nagi chose to come to Palo Alto.


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