Over the last year, Houston has seen an increase in the number of ramen restaurants around town. While many people have eagerly embraced the trend and lined up to slurp noodles, sometimes the ramen boom giveth, and sometimes the ramen boom taketh away.
Nao Ramen in Rice Village has closed, owner Piran Esfahani confirmed to CultureMap Tuesday morning. News of the shuttering first circulated on the Ramen in Common Facebook group, where it was greeted with a certain amount of glee by the ramen-obsessed membership.
That response seems to be typical of the way many felt about Nao. The restaurant's Yelp page is littered with one and two star reviews that praise the restaurant's atmosphere and service while criticizing its food. Even a four star review called the ramen " tastless (sic), bland salty, no strong taste."
The restaurant even made a last ditch attempt to broaden its appeal by adding sushi to the menu — a cuisine that has been absent from Rice Village since Kubo's closed last year — but that wasn't enough to save it. For Esfahani, Nao's closing comes approximately a year after he shuttered Tarakaan, the pan-Asian bar and restaurant in Midtown that has since become the cocktail lounge Rose Gold.
A representative for Rice Village manager Trademark Property Co. tells CultureMap that no new tenant has signed on to replace Nao yet, but don't expect it to stay empty for long. With Hopdoddy's arrival earlier this year and Shake Shack coming soon, the dining options in Rice Village are rapidly improving. Surely a new restaurant will want to be part of that growth.
Meanwhile, Houston's ramen obsessives will have to find a new restaurant to love to hate. They won't have Nao to kick around anymore.