SF Ramen Trend, 2017

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By Elli Sekine

The ramen boom of San Francisco sees no end in sight, and continues to enchant local ramen fans. During the past 10-year history of this SF ramen boom, those who took the lead of the first-phase must have been “Izakaya Sozai”, “Katanaya-Ramen”, etc. Among them, the signature dish of “Sozai”, the tonkotsu ramen, was voted as “the meal that you wish to have at least once before you die”, which drove ramen fans to rush in night after night. The truth was that this menu item was something the owner created in his spare time just for fun, but ended up as an item on the menu to finish a meal with. After that, the word “tonkotsu” spread quickly.

In the meantime, in Silicon Valley, “Orenchi” that opened 7 years ago in Santa Clara, had a major impact on the ramen boom by being so popular that people waited as long as 2 hours to get in. Since the “Orenchi” brand had pretty much been established, the second restaurant, stylish, and named “Orenchi Beyond” opened in 2015 in San Francisco, and is attracting a younger generation of people in San Francisco. Some of the restaurants which gathered a lot of attention for their openings in 2016 are “Nojo Ramen Tavern”, the first overseas development of AP Company known for “Tsukada Nojo”, specializing in jidori chicken cooking, “Iza Ramen”, the ramen department of a local popular sushi restaurant called “Blowfish”, and “Mensho Tokyo”, also the first overseas development from Tokyo which is currently breaking through. In Japan Town where the competition is very high, “Waraku” and “Yamadaya” started in LA, and Suzu” used to be the top 3; however, popularity is transitioning to newer restaurants like “Marufuku Ramen” that opened this year, and “Hinodeya Ramen”, also a new overseas development from Japan launched at the end of last year. “Marufuku Ramen” is especially popular; so much so that people form a long line every day. The restaurant that is attracting attention the most among the newly opened ones is “Ippudo”, the Hakata style ramen sanctuary, which is known worldwide, and finally opened in Berkley after a long preparation period.

As a new trend, there is an increase in the number of izakaya-style ramen restaurants which have developed from ramen specialty restaurants by adding a-la-carte dishes and various drinks on the menu. You could spend as much as 40 to 50 dollars per person in such a restaurant. Americans are getting more particular about tastes, and trends are moving toward “local gourmet foods” that offer traditional regional tastes. San Francisco’s ramen business industry is getting more diversified, and competition on a higher level continues to grow.

J-POP Ramen Summit
The “J-POP Summit”, the US’s largest festival of Japanese pop culture, was held on September 9th and 10th at Fort Maison Center. This event was produced by Yoshiyuki Maruyama who triggered the Bay Area ramen culture. The “Ramen Summit” that brought together 5 ramen restaurants, 4 from SF and 1 from Seattle, was a big success, and was very busy throughout with many visitors until the end. People formed a long line in front of every booth, and truly enjoyed comparing bowls of ramen of different popular restaurants, etc., which they can experience only at a festival like this. http://www.j-pop.com/

/////// Introduction of the restaurants ///////

1. Nojo Ramen Tavern
Their signature dish is gorgeous Chicken Paitan ($18.50 at the restaurant), in which a whole chicken leg is in the bowl. The rich thick broth accentuated with ginger and yuzu is profoundly tasty and volumerous. Medium thick curly noodles made of whole wheat flour are custom-made.

It is a popular restaurant in Seattle, and the first time exhibitor of the Ramen Summit. Thier signature dish, made by the owner/chef from Hokkaido, is Spicy Miso ($14 at the restaurant). The broth is an excellent combination of white and red miso with added spicy chilli, and is very well received among Americans.

3. Orenchi Beyond
Their signature dish is “Beyond Ramen” ($13.50). Its rich tonkotsu shoyu base with added fish stock and garlic is full of originality, and rich in taste and creates a good balance with medium-thick bouncy curly noodles. As new additions to the menu, they have miso-tamatoe base vegan ramen, tantanmen, etc.
4. Marufuku Ramen
Traditional Hakata-style tonkotsu base broth cooked for 20 hours is a good match to its custom-made flavorful straight thin noodles. Their signature dish is Hakata Tonkotsu ($10.99). This restaurant is breaking through by offering the right richness, adjustable spiciness, various topping choices and a rich-variery of a-la-carte dishes.

5. Hinodeya Ramen & Bar
This restaurant came to the US for the first time to try to introduce authentic dashi culture. Its delicate flavorful dashi of bonito and konbu coats the medium-thick curly noodles well, and bring out the good taste. Its sophisticated, light-flavored dashi ramen and kappo-style a-la-carte dishes are differentiated from other restaurants, and has established a good reputation.


サンフランシスコのラーメンブームは止まる所を知らない。次から次へと新しいコンセプトの店が登場し、地元のラーメンファンを魅了している。この10 年のSF ラーメンブームの歴史を振り返ってみると、第1次ブームを牽引したのは、「Izakaya Sozai」や「Katanaya-ramen」だろう。そのうち「Sozai」の名物、「豚骨ラーメン」は、ローカル誌の「死ぬ前に一度食べたい一品」に抜擢され、夜な夜なラーメンファンが駆けつけた。しかしこのメニュー、実はオーナーが趣味で作ったシメのメニューだった。それから「tonkotsu」のキーワードは一気に広まった。

一方、シリコンバレー、Santa Claraに7年前に登場した 「Orenchi」は、最長2時間待ちという盛況ぶりでラーメンブームに拍車をかけた。その“Orenchi”ブランドが確立した事もあり2015年、サンフランシスコにお洒落な2号店、「Orenchi Beyond」を開店し、SF の若年層を惹きつけた。2016 年のオープンで注目を浴びたのが、地鶏料理の「塚田農場」で知られるAP カンパニー初の米国進出になる「Nojo Ramen avern」、地元人気寿司店「Blowfish」のラーメンバージョン、「Iza ramen」と、東京から初米国進出でブレーク中の「MenshoTokyo」だ。そしてラーメン店の激戦区、日本街にはそれまで「Waraku」、LA 発祥の「Yamada-ya」、「Suzu」の3強だったが、今年オープンした新店舗「Marufuku Ramen」と去年暮れにオープンした日本からの初進出店、「Hinodeya Ramen」に人気は移行し、中でも「Marufuku」は、連日長蛇の列を成している。新規オープンで最も注目されているのが、長年の準備期間を経てバークレーに新オープンした、世界にその名を轟かす博多ラーメンの殿堂、「Ippudo」だ。

最近の傾向としては、ラーメン専門店から一品料理を加えドリンクの種類も揃えたRamen Izakara が増えている。中には一人の会計が$40 〜50 という店も少なくない。アメリカ人の舌も肥え、流行は地方伝統の味を提供する“ ご当地グルメ” へと移行している。多様化が進むSF ラーメンビジネス業界は一層レベルアップした激戦が続いている。

J-POP ラーメンサミット
全米最大の日本ポップカルチャーの祭典、「J-Pop Summit」 が先日9 月9 日、10 日にFort Maison Center で開催され、 ベイエリアラーメンカルチャーの火付け役、丸山良幸氏がプロデュースした「Ramen Summit」は、SF 4軒とシアトルから1軒の計5店舗が結集し、終始大盛況で幕を閉じた。各ブースにはラーメンファンが長蛇の列を作り、祭りでしか体験できない人気店の一杯を食べ比べするなど堪能していた。http://www.j-pop.com/

/////// ラーメンサミットにラインアップした店舗紹介 ///////

1. Nojo Ramen Tavern

 シアトル一の人気店で、今回ラーメンサミットは初出店となる。北海道出身のオーナーシェフが作る看板メニューは、spycymisho( 店頭価格$14)。白味噌と赤味噌の絶妙な合わせでピリ辛チリを加えたブロスでアメリカ人に大好評。サンフランシスコへの進出を考慮中。

3. Orenchi Beyond
看板メニューは「Beyond ramen」($13.50) で、濃厚な豚骨醤油ベースに魚だしとニンニクを加えたオリジナリティ溢れるリッチな味わいで弾力がある縮れ中太麺とのバランスが良い。新作メニューには、味噌トマトベースのビーガンラーメン、担々麺などが揃う。

4. Marufuku Ramen
正統派、博多スタイル豚骨ベース。20 時間煮込んだブロスとカスタムメイドの風味良いストレート細麺との相性が引き立つ。看板メニューは、HakataTonkotsu ($10.99) で、こってりすぎず好みに合わせた辛さや追加トッピングを選べる。一品料理も豊富でブレーク中。

5. Hinodeya Ramen & Bar
本格的な出汁文化を紹介すべく挑んだ米国初進出店。風味豊かなカツオと昆布の繊細な本格和風だしと中太縮れ麺がブロスと程よく絡み美味しさを引き立たせている。代表ラーメンは、HidenyaRamen ($14) で、割烹風な一品料理も人気。「出汁ラーメン」は他店と差別化され、定評を得ている。
#alljapannews #ramen #trend #SF #JPOPramensamit


Bizarre labels on Japanese Sake bottles

By Yuji Matsumoto

While I’ve written repeatedly in the past about the lack of marketing efforts in branding Japanese sake bottles, it’s very disappointing that most breweries still haven’t implemented my suggestions. Every time a new Japanese sake product is introduced, many manufacturers still use labels very different from previous ones.

The bizarre marketing strategy is evident as soon as one picks up a product. Take vodka for example. While colors of the bottles may change, neither the label design nor the fonts of corporate logos ever change. Wine, whiskey, beer, etc., no matter what product you grab, the branding is such that customers immediately recognizes the manufacturer at first glance.

Wine labels share the same design, but different shapes of bottles and colors depending on the variety of grapes. For vodka, the shapes of the bottles are the same, and only the color of the label is changed according to the flavor. For beers, light vs. regular is differentiated by color, while the design is the same.

Designs of alcohol products are standardized in this manner. However, why not so with Japanese sake? Considering the cost and time required to launch a product, the lack of standardization in design for marketing purposes is “bizarre” to say the least.

I once heard from a sake manufacturer that when displaying sake bottles in small retail shops, various products by the same brand lining the shelves would confuse consumers, thus there was no choice but to change the labels. Another’s opinion was that if one brand fails, sales of other products under the same brand would also suffer due to chain reaction.

Looking at the current brands of Japanese sake, there isn’t one manufacturer whose labels are standardized among Nigori, Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo. The changes in design and fonts are easy to notice.

American consumers are very loyal to brands. While the majority of them cannot read Japanese, using a standardized logo design would help consumers who happened to like Junmai to next sample Ginjo, Daiginjo, or Nigori sake.








#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #branding #sommelier


“Best in the World! International Wine Challenge (IWC) Champion” Part 1

By Kosuke Kuji 

At this year’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) 2017, “Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai” is honored to win the “Champion Sake” title!!

From all the entries of total 1245 brands from 390 companies including foreign brands in 9 categories, the brewery master of the first prize (trophy) winner of each category came to the awards ceremony in London and just only one sake would be selected as the Champion Sake from 9 first prizes (trophy). You can see the reason why the champion sake of IWC which is the first prize (champion) from 1245 entries would be named the #1 Japanese sake in the world.

I received the first prize (trophy) for Honjozo last year and attended the award ceremony in London for the first time. When Dewazakura Sake Brewery Co was announced as Champion Sake at last year’s ceremony and while I was watching president Nakano from behind who was representing the future of Japan and walking onto the stage, I thought: I would like to bring this championship back to Nanbu Bijin, have Brewery Master Matsumori along with manufacturing staff that have been working hard until now and all supporting staff to feel the pride and excitement that their work lead them to become the world’s best, and show my appreciation to Iwate prefecture and Ninohe city that has brought us this far.

I certainly didn’t believe that my dream of these thoughts would become a reality. It was the reforming and efforts to improve the sake quality these last few years and result of persistent challenging that has lead us to this achievement. You can also say that the Nanbu Bijin team became as one to win this ultimate achievement.





#alljapannews #sake #nation #wine #challenge


Aiming to be the world’s best tonkotsu ramen specialty restaurant chain, pouring passion into a bowl of ramen

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By Aya Ota

ICHIRAN” is a natural tonkotsu ramen specialty restaurant chain. Their headquarters are in Hakata, in the Fukuoka Prefecture, and has developed 68 restaurants all over Japan. This company claims themselves to be “the preeminent company researching tonkotsu ramen”, and they narrow down to offer only one type of ramen in the menu. The soup made with 100% tonkotsu (pork-bonebase stock) using special high skills has no unpleasant smell, and “Hiden no Tare (Spicy Red Sauce)” floats in the middle of each bowl. Those are some of the results of the daily study of 40-plus expert artisans in the efforts to try and create true tonkotsu ramen, insisting to use high-quality food ingredients. While the menu is pretty much narrowed down, they provide a special customizing form to respond to each customer’s preferences. On the form, customers can make optional adjustments from the following 7 categories: “Dashi”, “Richness”, “Garlic”, “Scallions”, “Charshu/ Sliced Pork:, “Hiden no Tare /Spicy Red Sauce”. The most unique system they offer must be the way to eat such a particularly-made bowl of ramen; you eat in an individual space separated from the next seat called “the flavor-concentration booth”. After submitting your customization form, and your ramen arrives, the little bamboo blind that hangs in front of you closes, so you can be relaxed, and really concentrate on your ramen. If you want to order extra noodles (kaedama), or a drink, you do not need to call out, but to merely push the call button.

As for their development overseas, they opened the first North American restaurant in Brooklyn, New York in October of 2016 following Hong Kong in 2013. During the preparation period, many doubted if American customers would be willing to eat alone in an individual space. Moreover, the location is not easily accessible, and the region is still under development. It was chosen to also build a factory nearby to be the base of the future development to have more restaurants. Some wondered if people would be willing to go to such a place just to eat ramen. Some thought that $20 for a bowl of ramen would sound too expensive even including tips.

“I was only half-convinced about succeeding at the beginning, but now I feel certainty. I think the same taste, service, and the atmosphere as in Japan are well received in the US,” says Satoshi Komaya, General Manager. More than 100 people formed a line on opening day, and the restaurant has now grown to have people waiting for hours to get in on weekends. Mr. Komaya analyzes the reason for their success in acquiring customers as follows; “Our brand power established in Japan and Hong Kong has been diffused and permeated through SNS such as Instagram and Facebook.” Just like in Japan, they serve only one kind of ramen.

The key ingredients such as the Hiden no Tare and dashi are directly imported from Japan. Other ingredients are locally procured, so it took about 10 years to prepare in order to replicate the same taste locally. They offer only one appetizer and one dessert, and for alcoholic drinks, there are only three; beer, matcha beer, and Japanese sake. The reason for this careful line of selection is only one and the biggest, which is nothing but offering a good match to the ramen. I thought the matcha beer had been selected to take advantage of the matcha boom and be unique; however, it was not the case. It had been specially developed from deep thinking about how well it would match with ramen. “The flavor-concentration booth” is very well accepted, and receives much better comments than other table seating arrangement. Many people say things like, “My sense of taste felt sharper, and I was very impressed!” I believe that all those experiences create added value, and make people willing to wait in line no matter how inconvenient the access is, how long they have to wait, or how expensive ($20) a bowl of ramen is. One change they made to suit New York life style is the table called “Ichiran Yatai”. Most of the customers use “the flavor-concentration booths”, and average length of stay is as short as half an hour. So people started to use this table as a bar to enjoy appetizers and sake with friends before or after eating ramen.

Mr. Komaya predicts, “From now on, ramen restaurants in the US will probably branch out in two ways; specialty restaurants utilizing Japanlike styles, and those which are more locally adopted. So far, what’s spreading in the US is the type of ramen restaurant which serves various dishes and sake in addition to ramen to enjoy varieties. I am certain that “Ichiran” is the kind that can aim for the best in the world as a ramen specialty restaurant,” He also says that the factory has ample producing capacity, and a plan to have more restaurants in the US is under consideration.


天然とんこつラーメン専門店『一蘭』。福岡県博多に本店を置き、日本各地に約68店舗を展開する。「とんこつラーメンを世界一研究する会社」と謳う同社では、メニューをラーメン1 種類に絞り込む。高度な特殊製法で作った“100%豚骨で全く臭みなく仕上げたスープ” や、丼の中央に浮かべた“ 元祖・赤い秘伝のタレ” をはじめ、安全で高品質の食材にこだわり、40 人もの熟練職人が日々研究を重ねて、本物のとんこつラーメン作りを極めている。メニューを特化した一方で、客の微妙な好みの違いに応えるために、専用オーダー用紙を用意。「味の濃さ」「こってり度」「にんにく」「チャーシュー」「秘伝のたれ」の7 項目を調整できる仕組みを提供している。最も独特な点は、そのこだわりの一杯を、隣席と仕切った空間「味集中カウンター」で食べることだろう。専用オーダー用紙を提出し、ラーメンが運ばれてきた後は、目の前の簾も閉められ、周囲を気にすることなく、リラックスした状態でラーメンに集中する。替え玉やドリンクの追加注文時も、一切言葉を発する必要はなく、呼び出しボタンを押すだけでいい。

海外展開は2013 年の香港に続き、初の北米店としてニューヨークのブルックリン地区に2016 年10 月に開店。準備段階から「米国人が、個室で、一人でラーメンを食べるのか」との声も多かった。また、立地条件は、アクセスが不便で発展途上の地域。多店舗展開の拠点として工場併設のために選んだ立地だが「こんな場所に、わざわざラーメンを食べに行く人がいるか」と疑う声もあった。チップ込みとは言え「ラーメン1杯20ドルなんて高すぎる」という反応もあった。  

「当初は、自分自身も半信半疑だったが、確かな手応えを感じている。日本と全く同じ味、サービス、雰囲気が米国でも受け入れられている。」と語るのは、同店のジェネラル・マネージャー、米屋聡氏。開店初日には100 人以上が行列、今や、週末には数時間待ちが続く店に成長した。「日本や香港で確立したブランド力が、インスタグラムやフェイスブックなどSNSを通して、国境を越えて拡散・浸透している」と米屋氏は集客成功要因を分析する。日本同様、ラーメンは1 種類のみ。秘伝のタレや出汁などキーとなる食品は日本から直輸入するが、それ以外は現地食材で同じ味を再現すべく、約10 年の準備期間を費やした。前菜もデザートも各1 種類、アルコールもビール、抹茶ビール、日本酒の3 種類しかない。“ ラーメンに合う” という唯一にして最大の理由で厳選された内容だ。抹茶ビールは、近年の抹茶ブームに便乗し奇をてらったメニューかと思いきや、ラーメンとの相性を考え抜いて特別開発されたものだ。「味集中カウンター」も好評で、テーブル席を利用した客よりも、圧倒的に評価が高く「味覚が研ぎ澄まされ、感動した」などの声が多いそうだ。これらすべての体験が付加価値となり、
アクセスが不便であろうが、長時間待とうが、1杯20ドルだろうが、客は列を作るのだろう。ひとつ、ニューヨークらしい変化を遂げたのが「一蘭屋台」と呼ばれるテーブル席。多くの客が「味集中カウンター」を利用し、また平均滞在時間は30 分と短いため、ラーメンを食べる前後に、仲間と共につまみや酒を楽しむバーとして活用されるようになったという。  
「今後、米国のラーメンは、日本らしさを生かした専門店と、現地化した店に、二分化していくのではないか」と米屋氏。「これまで米国で広がってきたのは、ラーメンを中心にいろいろな料理や酒を楽しめる“ ラーメン・レストラン”。一蘭は“ ラーメン専門店” として世界一を目指せると確信している」と続ける。現在の工場は十分な生産能力もあるため、店舗を拡大する計画も考察中とのことだ。

374 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 381-0491

Everyday 11:00am-11:00pm
Weekday (Monday to Friday)

[counter-seats] 6:00pm-11:00pm

[counter-seats & ICHIRAN Yatai seats]
Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) 11:00am-11:00pm

[counter-seats & ICHIRAN Yatai seats]
(Last call 10:30pm)
#alljapannews #Japanese #tonkotsu #ramen #NY


Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon specialty restaurant chain, lands US mainland for the first time

Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ... Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ... Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ... Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ... Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...
By Keiko Fukuda

My first encounter with Marugame Udon was in Hawaii. About 5 years ago, I stayed at a hotel across the street from Kuhio Street in Waikiki. I was planning to visit this restaurant during my stay because I knew how popular this restaurant was among the local people by reading a blog of a person who was residing in Hawaii. Every time I looked down from my hotel room window at this restaurant, there was always a long line of people stretching from the front of the restaurant regardless of if it was lunch time or dinner time. I was so determined that I must get in the line myself, and so I did. I experienced the California style udon ordering, in which you pick the kind of basic Udon first, then pick tempura pieces of your choice as toppings. It was fun, and also delicious. I wanted to try a different kind of basic udon with different tempura pieces for the topping next time. Udon is not a new food for a Japanese person like me, but I felt that Marugame Udon was a very refreshing eating experience.

After the experience in Hawaii, I visited one of the numerous Marugame Udon chain restaurants every time I went back to Japan. Then I discovered that you could get the same fun and authentic taste from this cafeteria type restaurant chain equally in both Japan and Hawaii.

Then I started to wonder, “There is one in Hawaii, but why not in LA?” Well, finally, in September of 2017, the very first Marugame Udon on the mainland US opened on Sawtelle Blvd. in West Los Angeles. The Sawtelle area is a highly competitive district for Japanese food businesses. Both sides of Sawtelle Blvd are tightly packed with many Japanese restaurants specialized in sushi, ramen, Japanese style curry, yakitori, tebasaki (chicken wings), etc.

In front of the restaurant, you see the familiar sign for this chain, which is a paper lantern with the name of the company, “Marugame Seimen”, written in Kanji. As soon as you step inside, there is an ordering counter and you see their staff working diligently over the counter. There was a tasting event held right before the grand opening when I went. I ordered “Nikutama (egg and meat) Udon” which is not what I normally order. I ordered a cold udon because it was the season in which you can still feel the warmth of the ending summer. Another unusual thing I did was that I chose clearly too many freshly fried crispy tempura pieces that included chikuwa, squid, chicken, karaage (different from chicken tempura), and asparagus. I just could not help but to keep taking them one after another.

It is such great fun that you can keep taking and putting whatever you want on your tray flowingly. Another big point for somebody like me who tends to be hasty is the fact that the waiting time between ordering and starting to eat disappears, not to mention the appeal of the products that are reasonably priced - the udon is freshly made and cooked, as well as the crispy tempura. After taking some free stuff at the end of the line of food, which are chopped green onions and tenkasu (fried tempura batter crumbs), and taking the tray to your table, you can start your meal immediately. The most important aspect, the taste, did not disappoint me. I was highly satisfied by the quality of the udon as well, but the karaage was quite impressive, too. It was so good, and made me want to know how it was marinated before fried.

My total charge was about $15 with a drink because I took too much tempura, but the cost should be only about $10 if you order a simple regular udon (Kake Udon), and add some tempura, which is very reasonably priced. Besides udon, there are various rice bowls topped with spicy tuna, tuna/avocado, tuna/ikura (salmon roe), etc., which are also prepared quickly in front of you over the counter so you can taste freshly-made meals.

After leaving the restaurant greatly satisfied, I saw rows of people waiting outside of a popular ramen restaurant on the same street. People gather in the Sawtelle district to eat Japanese foods. I bet that you will also be seeing a similar scene in front of Marugame Udon after their grand opening.










大満足で店を出た後、同じ通りの人気ラーメン店の行列が目に入った。こうやって日本食を求めて人はソーテルに集まってくる。グランドオープン後にMARUGAME UDONの店の前にも同じような光景が展開しているにちがいない。

2029 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025

Sun.-Wed. 11am-11pm
Thu.-Sat. 11am-12am
7 days open
#alljapannews #sanuki #udon #Japanese #marugame #LA


A restaurant that fully reflects Japanese “Bath House Culture” opens

A restaurant th... A restaurant th... A restaurant th... A restaurant th... A restaurant th... A restaurant th... A restaurant th...
By Elli Sekine

In San Francisco where the restaurant business is becoming more and more diversified, a restaurant facility called “Onsen” that combines a bath house and a restaurant made its debut at the end of last year. This restaurant that took 3 years to build, replicating and beautifully modernizing the traditional Japanese bath house (sentoh), unifying a bar and a restaurant, is the talk of the town for its unique and unprecedented concept in the US.

Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith, the owners of this restaurant facility are a married couple who love Japan very much. Among many Japanese cultures, they have been particularly charmed by hot springs and bath houses. They wanted to spread the “Japanese bath house culture”, the true essence of relaxation, to the US, and opened this facility. The place looks like nothing but a restaurant if you only look at the entrance, but as you go deeper inside the space, a new world opens up. You can use their bath or the spa facility alone, or the bar and the restaurant space also individually. In San Francisco, where there are many people who love Japanese culture, people are talking highly about the experience that they can truly enjoy through having drinks and healthy Japanese dishes after soaking themselves in the Japanese bath.

The Tenderloin District in the west of downtown, where this facility is located, used to be unstable with public safety, and had a far from trendy image, but stylish bars and restaurants are slowly coming to the area in recent years. The Onsen’s sophisticated look has definitely refreshed the surrounding scenery. The owner/architecture designer Sunny explains why this location was chosen. “This redbrick building inspired my designer spirit to create an ideal facility.” The building is deep inside, and the space was suitable for building a bath house. It is not very close to the nearby train station, and there is not much foot traffic either, but it is close enough from the downtown area, so tourists come by Uber from hotels, and many neighboring people also come. A parking lot is also available across the street. For the Americans who love to experience Japanese culture, this is an innovative facility where they can enjoy having meals while visiting a spa or a yoga studio-like place instead of going to equivalent facilities in hotels.

Its modern Japanese-flavored interior space designed by Sunny draws your attention immediately after entering. The artistic space themed with an old Japanese-style house is full of old household tools such as an old fire place and an accompanying hanging hook, a tea ceremony set, a traditional iron kettle, etc. You can sense his love of Japan. When you walk deeper into the space, you reach the entrance of the “Sentoh (bath house)”, his masterpiece.

There is a long quaint corridor, and you see a massage service room, a tatami banquet room, and a locker room on the way to the entrance door. You find comfortable cotton robes made in Japan in the locker room for you to change into to go to the bath house. The sophisticated looking elegant bath house has a high ceiling from where the sunlight comes in, a lot of green plants cascading from the walls, and is creating a beautiful contrast with the settling red bricks. You can spend very relaxed happy moments going into the steam room, dry sauna, etc. in the facility equipped with a shower room and TOTO-brand toilets.

The dining room is rather small with a counter bar, 4 tables and 16 seats, but they have an extensive drink menu with cocktails, beers, wine, and sake. For health-conscious customers, there is a rich collection of teas including konbu tea, herb tea, Pu-erh tea, matcha, and even gyokuro tea. Their new-age Japanese dishes are created by Chef George Meza who has worked at high-end Japanese restaurants like “Ame” and “Terra”. His dishes are creative using Californian ingredients while retaining the standard skills, lightly-flavored, yet satisfyingly rich. The beautiful presentation of the dishes using herbs is highly acclaimed as well.

The popular dishes include “Mushroom dumplings” ($16) cooked in dried bonito-base dashi, citrus, and oil, served with beautifully decorated local vegetables, 5 kinds of juicy yakitori with vegetable skewers, and ginger-base dashi udon noodles with spicy miso ($13). Each dish is made small in quantity suitable to accompany sake and beer drinking.

There are plenty of spas in San Francisco, and as the pioneers of Japanese style bath houses out of highend hotels, there are “Kabuki Spa”, etc. However, “Onsen” is the only place that is combined with a restaurant, and started to attract the attention of curious restaurant side clientele who don’t know what the bath house is. On the other hand, at American homes, installing of Japanese style bath tubs and washlets are slowly but steadily increasing. I hope that the Japanese bath culture that provides ultimate relaxation will spread, triggered by this debut of “Onsen” restaurant.


日本食レストランの多様化が進むサンフランシスコで、「Onsen」という名前のお風呂+レストラン施設が去年の暮れ登場した。3 年の工事期間を経てオープンした同店は、日本の伝統文化である“ 銭湯” を美しくモダンに再現し、バーとレストランを融合させた全米でも類を見ない新しいコンセプトで話題を呼んでいる。



店内に入った瞬間惹きつけられるインテリアは、サニー 氏がデザインしたモダンな和テイスト空間。古民家を意識した空間美術は、囲炉裏に付随する火棚吊り棒や茶道具、伝統的な鉄瓶などの古民具が散りばめられ、彼のセンスと日本への愛情が感じられる。奥に進むと彼のマスターピースとなる“ 銭湯” への入り口がある。そのドアまで続く風情がある長い廊下には、鍼やマッサージのサービスが受けれる個室、宴会ができる畳の個室がある。風呂場の前にあるロッカールームには、着心地の良い日本製の綿浴衣が常備され、それを着て風呂場に入る。洗練された優雅な雰囲気の風呂場は、高い天井から陽光が差し込み、緑が滝のように垂れ、落ちついた赤煉瓦とのコントラストが美しい。スティームルーム、ドライサウナの他、シャワールーム、TOTO製トイレが設備され、快適でリラックスした至福の時が過ごせる。

ダイニングルームはカウンターバー7席と 4テーブル14 席とこじんまりしている。しかしドリンクメニューは、カクテル、ビール、ワイン、酒と健康志向のメニューにはコンブ茶、ハーブティーからプアティー、抹茶、玉露までを揃えている。新感覚の日本食を担うのは、元高級日本食レストラン「Ame」や「Terra」での経験を持つシェフ、ジョージ・メザ氏。彼の独創的な料理は、基本を保ちながらもカリフォルニアの食材を用いライトなのに味がしっかりして食べ応えがある。緑のハーブを添えた美しいプレゼンも定評がある。人気は、鰹節でとった出汁に酸味やオイルを加え、地元の野菜を彩りよく添えたマッシュルームダンプリング($16)、野菜を含めた5種類のジューシーな焼き鳥、ジンジャー出汁のうどん辛味噌添え($13)など。お酒やビールに合う小さなメニュー構成だ。

サンフランシスコには現在スパ施設は多いが、高級ホテル外で、日本的な風呂施設の先駆けとして「Kabuki Spa」などがある。しかしレストランを併設する「Onsen」は随一で、風呂を知らない人もレストランを訪れた際興味を持ち始めている。「Onsen」の登場が引き金となり究極の安らぎを与える風呂文化の普及に期待したい。

466 Eddy St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 441-4987

Mon, Wed 3:30pm-10:00pm
Thu 11:00am-10:00pm
Fri 12:00pm-11:00pm
Sat, Sun 10:30 am-11:00pm

Wed-Thur 5:30pm-9:30pm
Fri-Sun 5:30pm-10:00pm
Mon-Tue closed
#alljapannews #Japanese #bath #onsen #sanfrancisco #spa


Timing and content of communication

By Yuji Matsumoto

No matter how good a product is, the message needs to be communicated for customers to try the product. Also, the timing and message must be appropriate to lead to sales. Therefore, let’s consider when the appropriate timing is and how to communicate the appeal of Japanese sake in a way that leads to sales.

Consider who the message is directed to
Are chefs, servers, and bartenders trained appropriately? Giving them a small sample to try will not help them adequately describe and communicate the appeal of sake to customers appropriately. Training the staff to thoroughly understand why a brand of sake tastes delicious and why customers should try it is important because a single try will not be sufficient to understand even ten percent of the appeal of a brand. Therefore, please have staff try the sake paired with the cuisine.

During a food pairing session, Junmai was the least popular, yet when served with beef, all attendees unanimously agreed that Junmai was the most complimentary. The important part is to communicate why the recommended sake is most suitable for that particular customer. Please be mindful of the sake’s compatibility with the menu selection.

Of course, a good place to start would be to have the servers change their ordering from “What can I get you to drink?” to “It’s cold outside, would you like to try some hot sake?” This suggestion alone is a major difference. Also, please mention two to three different brands of Japanese sake during the recommendation.

Speak informatively to customers in a way that generates a response like “Oh really?” For example, “How about AAA, a dry and refreshing sake from Niigata that goes great with sushi?” Or “Would you like to try BBB, a brand of sake from Akita that has body and goes great with teriyaki?” The point is to word the recommendations into easy-to-understand sales pitches that makes customers want to try the brand. Offer two to three different brands that range from reasonable to mid-range prices. Also, pay attention to the weather. On cold days, anyone would prefer a warm beverage; therefore, it’s more effective to offer hot sake over cold.





やはり、サーバーがドリンクオーダーを取る時に顧客に「お飲み物をいかがいたしましょうか?」という一言を、「寒いので美味しい熱燗(hot sake)は、いかがですか」と変えてみること。この一言で大きな違いが生まれる。また、この際、2~3銘柄お薦めの日本酒も伝えること。

#alljapannews #sake #communication #food #pairing


Sake Nation Kosher Certification Part 5

By Kosuke Kuji

Just as I mentioned in the last column, Nanbu Bijin cleared different hurdles to receive Kosher certification for 2 types of liquor of Japanese sake and plum wine to lead the way. For the announcement of our company receiving certification, the first announcement was made in the Holy Land of Judaism, Israel.

Next, focusing on Israelis living in Los Angeles and New York in the U.S., we had the Kosher announcement and tasting events. We are planning to also have these kind of tasting events in Japan in the future.

The reason why Nanbu Bijin wanted to apply for Kosher certification in the first place was the Great East Japan Earthquake and at that time we received much support from Israel including Rabi Edelhi. Also as a company that exports, sake is known to be reliable and safe, but I was thinking for a long time what might be needed to make it possibly more acceptable worldwide as a guarantee or decision making factor. During such a time I met up with this “Kosher.”

Even though Japanese sake has the image of being healthy or safe and reliable worldwide, that image is very much limited to foreigners that know Japanese or Japan very well. So you may say, to conclusively prove that abstractive healthy image was the motive to challenge this Kosher certification.

For a small country brewery like Nanbu Bijin to receive certification when the hurdle was first so high to reach the Kosher level, I believe that there will be an increase of breweries that will plan to receive Kosher certification in the Japan Sake making industry from now on.

I believe that Kosher sake will break down the wall of religion, put aside the concept of Japanese food, and be the key to make Japanese sake spread across the world with a true meaning. This might be a story slightly ahead in the future instead of right away, but I will dream that such a time will come and continue to work hard to achieve that.

酒豪大陸「コーシャ認定 その5」







#alljapannews #sake #kosher #certification


A unique place that makes you feel like going back over and over again, not just because of the good price and taste

A unique place that makes you... A unique place that makes you... A unique place that makes you... A unique place that makes you... A unique place that makes you... A unique place that makes you...
By Aya Ota

In Korean Town, where the lights are illuminated 24 hours a day, people are walking around all day long, and there are so many Korean restaurants, there is a Japanese restaurant in a corner, for which people always wait in line. This is “Izakaya Mew”. Customers start coming in as soon as the door opens at 5pm, and the place has its peaks between 6 and 8. It is so popular, and you almost always have to wait for tens of minutes to get in.

“What’s the key to your success?”
I asked. “The reasonable prices and good taste,” answered the manager, Keisuke Oku, simply. It is not easy to achieve “reasonable prices and good taste” in New York where rents are so high, and so is the competition. As I was asking deeper into the reason why they have grown to be the kind of a restaurant which can collect customers only through word of mouth with almost no advertising, but through repeated trial and error, and creating a virtuous cycle since the opening, I was finally able to see the true reason.

One reason is its location. Despite the standard for the restaurant locations in New York being on the surface of the streets, they dared to choose a basement to cut the cost in half. Naturally, the entrance is inconspicuous with a quiet sign and noren on top of the stairs that lead to downstairs. Despite the fact that it is so easy to miss even if you know the location, customers who seek “reasonable prices and good taste” form a line. There is more. They do not take reservations.

They used to take reservations at the beginning, but it tended to create empty time and tables. So they stopped taking reservations, and instead, started to take in the next group of waiting customers as soon as a table became available. This change made the operation more effective. Of course, they have to make customers wait, but customers do not complain at all. Some wait in the bar area created as a waiting space for drinking, or leave names and come back later.
They know that once they are seated, “reasonable priced and good tasting food” is waiting to be served. Among many restaurants in Korean Town which are open 24 hours a day, they close relatively early, which is another key to running the restaurant effectively.

In the menu, you find over 100 izakaya style dishes in total which are rich in ingenuity. The items are categorized as “Toriaezu”, “Tataki”, “Hot Pot”, “Deep Fried”, “Salads”, “Grilled”, “Stir Fried”, “Noodles”, “Ramen”, “Rice”, “Sushi Rolls”, “Desserts, etc. Izakaya specialty menu items are difficult to visualize just from the names, but each item is photographed to make it easy to know what it is and its volume. “Salmon Sashimi Tacos” ($7.95), a popular dish, has familiar ingredients of sauce marinated salmon and guacamole, and is well received for its unique creation as tacos. “Omu Soba” ($11.95), which is omelet wrapped yakisoba topped with dried bonito shavings and green seaweed flakes (ao-nori), is a very familiar item for Japanese people, but attracts curiosity of non-Japanese customers. Their 5 main chefs are supposed to come up with new seasonal menu items every month to make it possible to satisfy even the repeating customers by continuing to offer different dishes. Among those new items which became popular, some would be added to the standard regular menu, so the menu is kept fresh with those constant changes.

Mr. Oku continues, “I want to convey the izakaya culture of Japan.” This restaurant is highly claimed by Trip Advisor, and attracts tourists from both inside and outside the US. Since many of them are not familiar with the izakaya style, they also teach them how to enjoy izakaya. “You can place food orders any time at your own pace,” and “Dishes are meant to be shared with everyone in the group” are some of the teachings. Those who used to be unfamiliar at the beginning get soon familiarized, and can truly enjoy the unique style. In order to convey the izakaya-like ambiance, they pay close attention to create a lively atmosphere. One-of-a-kind, nostalgic interior decorations and vintage furniture helps to create such the unique ambiance, which may also be one of the reasons why they are so popular among the customers in their 20’s and 30’s.

“Izakaya Mew” has just entered its 5th year this summer. Please visit this undeniably charming restaurant which not only offers “reasonable prices and good taste”, but also makes you feel like going back over and over again.


24時間灯りがともり、人々の往来が途絶えない街、コリアンタウン。韓国料理店がひしめき、日本食店がほとんど存在しないこの地域の一角に、行列の絶えない日本食店が存在する。『Izakaya Mew』——夕方5 時の開店と共に、続々と客が入ってきて、6 〜7 時台にはピークを迎え、常に数十分待ちの行列ができる人気店だ。

「成功の秘訣は?」との問いに、「安くて美味しい」とシンプルに答えるのは、同店のマネージャー、奥慶介氏。家賃が高く競争の厳しいニューヨークで“ 安くて美味しい” を実現するのは決して簡単なことではない。さらに深く掘り下げて聞くと、開店以来、試行錯誤を重ね、好循環を作りだし、ほとんど宣伝することなしに口コミで集客できる店に成長した理由を伺い知ることができた。

まずは、立地条件。ニューヨークでは、レストランの立地は路面が常識と考えられているが、あえて地下を選んだことで、家賃を路面の約半額に抑えている。当然、入り口は目立たず、地下に降りる階段のあたりに、ひっそりと暖簾と看板があるのみ。場所を知っていてもうっかり通り過ぎてしまうほどだが、客は“ 安くて美味しい” を目指して列を作る。もう一つの特徴は予約を取らないこと。開店当初は予約を取っていたが、どうしても空き時間や空席ができてしまう。そこで、予約を取らず、席が空き次第、次の客を入れるようにオペレーションを変更した結果、効率が上がったという。当然、客を待たせることになるが、ウェイティング・スペースとなっているバーで一杯飲みながら待つ客もいれば、名前を書いて外に出て戻ってくる客もいる。いったん着席すれば “ 安くて美味しい” が待っていると分かっているので、客からのクレームは一切ない。24 時間開店している店も珍しくないこのコリアンタウンで、閉店時間が早いのも特徴的で、これも効率のよいオペレーションに一役買っている。

メニューには、創意工夫に富んだ居酒屋料理が並んでいる。「とりあえず」に始まり、「たたき」「鍋」「揚げ物」「サラダ」「焼き物」「炒め物」「麺類」「ラーメン」「ご飯物」「寿司ロール」「デザート」という具合にカテゴリ分けされており、その数は約100 種類にも及ぶ。居酒屋特有の料理にはメニュー名を見ただけでは、内容を想像しにくいものも多いが、すべてのメニューに写真が掲載されており、量や内容をイメージしやすい。人気メニューの『サーモン刺身タコス』($7.95)は、タレに漬け込んだサーモンとワカモレという馴染みの食材を使いつつも、タコスに仕上げるという異色の組み合わせが受けている。焼きそばをオムレツで包み、鰹節と青のりを振りかけた『オムソバ』($11.95)は、日本人には馴染みがある居酒屋メニューだが、非日本人には好奇心をそそる。同店では、メインのシェフ5 人が、毎月、季節感あふれる新作メニューを提案することになっており、リピーター客を飽きさせることもない。季節の新作メニューで人気が出たものは定番メニューに投入し、常にメニューの入れ替えを図っているので、常に新鮮だ。

「日本の居酒屋文化を伝えたい」と奥氏は続ける。同店は、トリップアドバイザーで高評価を得ていることから、米国内外からの観光客も多く、居酒屋を知らない客も多い。「いつでも好きなタイミングで料理を注文できること」「みんなでシェアして食べること」など、居酒屋の楽しみ方を教えている。はじめは不慣れだった客も、居酒屋独自のスタイルを満喫しているという。居酒屋らしさを伝えるためにも、活気あふれる雰囲気作りにも気を配っている。独特でノスタルジックな雰囲気を醸し出すインテリアやヴィンテージ感ある家具や調度品も特徴的だ。このお洒落さも20 〜30代を中心に人気がある理由の一つなのだろう。

この夏から5 年目に突入した『IzakayaMew』。安くて美味しいだけじゃない、何度も通いたくなる不思議な魅力のある店、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。

Izakaya Mew
Basement, 53 West 35th Street
New York, NY 10001
(646) 368-9384

LUNCH: Mon-Fri 12:00pm-2:20pm
DINNER: Mon-Thurs 5:00pm-10:30pm
Fri & Sat 5:00pm-11:30am
Sun 5:00pm-10:00pm
#alljapannews #izakayamew #newyork #sushi #ramen #omusoba


Legendary Sutadon bowl

Legendary Sutadon bowl Legendary Sutadon bowl Legendary Sutadon bowl Legendary Sutadon bowl
By Keiko Fukuda

The words, Sushi, Tempura, Yakitori, Ramen, and Udon are already recognized without being translated into English, and now a new Japanese food term is about to be added to such recognition by Americans in the areas where it is served. The new word is “Sutadon”. It is an abbreviation of Sutamina Donburi (energetic bowl), which is a bowl of rice topped with pork belly slices in garlic soy sauce. This dish was originated from the menu for employees of a ramen restaurant in Kunitachi-city, Tokyo, about 50 years ago. When they added this dish to the official restaurant menu, it became a big hit.

Under the first generation ownership, there was a total of only 3 restaurants; 2 in Kunitachi, and 1 in Kokubunji, but under the second generation ownership, they grew into a franchise. In 2015, their first US restaurant opened inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Chicago. “Our business philosophy is to provide cooking which can be the base power for Japanese and people worldwide,” says Hayato Yanagisawa, the General Manager of VEGIITA USA which is in charge of operations on the American side. On weekends, many enthusiastic American clients drive long hours to Chicago from far away to have “Sutadon”. On the other hand, the second U.S. restaurant in the Torrance Mitsuwa Marketplace is not as extremely popular as the Chicago branch, but the sales have been stable despite being in such a competitive location for Japanese restaurants because there are so many of them in the area. In the beginning, half of the Torrance branch customers were Japanese, but as the popularity grew by word of mouth, the Japanese clients now account for only 30%, and the rest, made up of other Asians and non-Asian customers, is increasing. I asked Mr. Yanagisawa the reason why the “Sutadon” is so well accepted. He said, “It’s the taste. Something they never tasted before. Another reason must be the freshness. Each bowl is created by hand after each order has received. Customers love that they can taste the freshly made food.”

About the sauce - the majority of its recipe is secret. Each branch finishes making the sauce; however only 3 people at the headquarters in Japan actually know the complete recipe. About the food ingredients for the bowl - pork and Japanese negi leeks are used in Japan, but for the U.S., Pork and onions are used with a bit of green onions for the green color. Some adjustments as such are made depending on the customers’ preferences of each region. Another equally popular item as Sutadon for the Torrance branch is the Chicken Cutlet Curry. The Japanese style curry is gaining popularity in the US nowadays, and the Sutadon restaurant curry made daily has made the third US branch in Plano, Texas, recognized as a curry restaurant on Yelp.

From now on, they aim for the developing of a multi-restaurant business by bringing their Japanese business style to the US, in which they do not limit to just Sutadon, but also include other specialty restaurants such as ramen restaurants. Mr. Yanagisawa spoke about the strategy to open more restaurants. “We will narrow down target locations where there are as few other Japanese restaurants as possible, but yet people are wanting more Japanese food. Unless we find a property of excellent conditions, it is unrealistic for the business like ours to spend high labor wage rate for low individual customer sales. In California, the competition for the Japanese food business is so tough, and the hourly wage is going higher and higher on top of it. We are also considering no-man operation such as receiving orders through computers in order to lower labor cost, but it still takes some investment capital to acquire such computer systems. Therefore, we will probably consider the option after we succeed in increasing the number of restaurants to a certain point.”

VEGIITA USA is planning to add 3 branches every year from now on in North America. You can taste the Sutadon only in Chicago, Torrance and Plano, now, but you may become able to taste it all over the United States in the future if their branches keep increasing.



初代は国立2店舗と国分寺1店舗の計3店舗を経営していたが、二代目になると看板料理となったすた丼をより多くの人々に知らせるべく、チェーン展開を開始。そして2015年にはシカゴのミツワ・マーケットプレイス内にアメリカ第1号店を開けた。「当社の企業理念は、日本、世界の人々の底力となる料理を提供すること」と語るのは、同店をアメリカで経営するVEGIITA USAのジェネラルマネージャー、柳沢隼人(ルビ:やなぎさわはやと)さんだ。







VEGIITA USAとしては。今後、年に3店舗ずつ、北米に新規店舗をオープンさせていくということだ。今はシカゴ、トーランス、プレイノでしか食べられないすた丼が、店を増やし続けることで、将来的に全米各地で味わえるようになるかもしれない。

21515 S. Western Avenue Torrance, CA 90501

7 days open
#alljapannews #Japanese #sutadon #curry #sutadonya


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  13. 11
  14. >
  15. >>