With Ramen Jin so overwhelmed on the first day of its soft-opening last Thursday that it closed for a week to regroup, it seems safe to say that Houston's sudden obsession with Japanese noodle soup isn't slowing down. Now an upcoming restaurant called Ninja Ramen will open on Washington next year with a simple philosophy.
"I hate the fact that people say 'It's good for Houston or it's good for Texas,' " owner Christopher Huang tells CultureMap. "We just want to come out with something really good, period." Towards that end, Ninja Ramen will pull its own noodles, serve two kinds of pork and, of course, perfect a signature broth. Huang thinks the restaurant's focus will help it find success.
"There's enough yuppies and foodies to try it that allows ramen to come out and play."
"We just want to make really good ramen, and that's it," he says.
Huang has been developing his ramen concept since 2004 but didn't think there was a market for ramen until recently. "There's enough yuppies and foodies to try it that allows ramen to come out and play," he says.
Ninja Ramen's website states it will open in Austin, but Huang says he spent two years looking for a space and couldn't find one in that city. Therefore, Ninja Ramen will open in the former Dubliner/Lava Rock space in Houston instead this February or March.
As for the name, Huang acknowledges it's a "non-gimmicky gimmick" but says he's inspired by the anime classic Naruto, which features a ramen-eating ninja. To enhance the theme, the restaurant will serve dishes that aren't on the menu. People will either discover them by watching them come out of the kitchen or finding hidden clues scattered around the restaurant.
Huang will also offer a discount to anyone who comes into the restaurant dressed as a ninja. "Wouldn't it be cool if you walked in and saw a bunch of ninjas eating ramen?"
To further appeal to the neighborhood, the restaurant will be open late.
Ready to don a black mask to save a couple bucks on ramen? Or is this one trend worth ignoring?