The pace of Houston's ramen invasion may have slowed a bit, but out-of-town noodle shops still have their eyes on bringing more tonkotsu to the city. With California-based Jinya Ramen already preparing to open locations in Midtown and Clear Lake, Seattle-based Samurai Noodle has also announced plans to open in Houston at the corner of I-10 and Durham before the end of 2014. The Ramen in Common Facebook page was first to report the news.
Houstonian Thomas Tang will serve as the regional manager for Samurai's Texas expansion. He tells CultureMap that he had been interested in partnering with an experienced operator to open a ramen shop in Houston. After traveling around the country and evaluating a number of options, he approached Samurai. Tang explains that Samurai's ability to maintain consistency of its flavors at three locations in Seattle made it very appealing to him.
Customers sitting at a bar in the restaurant will be able to see the noodle machine in operation and will discover when it uses the advertising tag line "love at first bite."
"I worked really hard to get them to look at Houston," Tang says. Although it took "some convincing" to persuade Samurai owner Ryo Izawa to make a trip to Texas to visit Austin and Houston, when he did, Izawa was impressed enough by Houston to partner with Tang.
Tang says Izawa chose Houston because he thinks Houstonians are more open to new kinds of food than Austinites, and, of course, Houston's larger size means the company could potentially open more locations. They settled on the specific location based on its small size (approximately 1,500 square-feet) and that it sits between ramen shops on the west side and Midtown/downtown. That it happens to be in the same shopping center as fellow Seattle-import Starbucks is a happy coincidence.
Asked about what sets Samurai apart, Tang says it's "the texture of the noodles. They're fresh-made and can be ordered chewy, regular or soft."
Customers sitting at a bar in the restaurant will be able to see the noodle machine in operation and will discover when it uses the advertising tag line "love at first bite." Tang adds that Samurai is "really strong in ramen," with a whopping 26 varieties on its menu. Those qualities helped Samurai earn the designation of being one of "26 Tasty Spots to Slurp Ramen" from Urbanspoon, along with such highly-touted spots at Tatsu-ya in Austin and Ippudo in New York City.
Look for Samurai to open by November. Until then, stay tuned for announcements about the chef, decor and more. As for Tang, he'll be spending quite a bit of time in Seattle. Izawa won't let him open the restaurant until he's been thoroughly schooled in every aspect of the restaurant's operations. That is the Samurai Way.