intersection of Westheimer Rd. and Wilcrest, a handful of
construction workers are attempting to finish their latest
project. At the same time, the owner of this space is
beginning to ponder his future for the next several years.
The business? A new restaurant that hopes to capture the
attention of nearly every ramen enthusiast in Harris County -
When the 'Coming Soon' banner was hoisted above the storefront a
few months ago, ramen rumors began to surface within a few days.
Although there's been a great deal of speculation about the
future of this soon-to-be ramen spot, details have been
sparse...until now. Today, I decided to pay a quick visit
to the construction site in the hopes of spending five minutes
to gather details. Pulling up to the location (18111
Westheimer Rd.), I noticed the main windows were covered with
crepe paper and I was unable to catch a glimpse inside.
Taking a gamble, I knocked on the front door. After a few
minutes of waiting without a response, I hopped in my car.
Then, out of my rear view mirror, I spotted a young gentleman
who opened the door. Quickly leaping out of my car, I
introduced myself. Thirty seconds later, I was invited
inside. Luckily, I was carrying a notepad, my camera and a
digital voice recorder. I'm delighted to say that I
gathered a wealth of information.
After the initial introductions
were out of the way, Brian (the owner of Ramen Jin) gave me a
quick tour of the entire establishment. My first
impression - Simplicity.
The dining area is designed with an unrefined overlapping wooden
wall combined with series of simple, handmade chairs. The
center of the dining area sports a lacquered table which is
capable of accommodating approximately 8 customers. From a
quick count, the entire establishment can accommodate between 35
- 43 customers at any time.
While I walked through the dining room, Brian said: "The
concept is all about ramen and keeping things simple.
You'll order and pay for your ramen at the counter. We'll
hand you a number. The ramen will be served to you.
Ramen Jin currently plans to offer five
flavors of common ramen as well as traditional Japanese
appetizers (such as gyoza dumplings and edamame) while including
an option of Gua Bao (Chinese steamed and sliced buns containing
pork and lettuce).
"We'll offer a selection five ramens - Tonkotsu, Shoyu,
Shio, Curry-flavor and Vegetarian ramen," said Brian.
"I don't want to get over-involved in a wide variety of
fusion flavors and options. We're going to keep it simple
and build a customer base from there."
During the interview, Brian admitted that he does not have vast
experience in making ramen...but his chef does.
"She (referring to the chef) has about 20 years of
experience in the kitchen and more than 10 years in sampling and
reviewing great ramen recipes."
Although I tried to obtain the name of the chef, I was
Brian also mentioned that a variety of
traditional Japanese beverages will be available but he will
purposely avoid offering common sodas, soft drinks. While
he is still weighing the idea of selling alcoholic beverages,
pitchers of complimentary ice cold water will be available at
The entire project began approximately 3 months ago, when Brian
first signed the lease.
"I took a gamble. I had no idea if Houston was ready
or even really interested in ramen but I'm slowly realizing the
many more Houstonians are learning to truly appreciate it.
Our customer base might be bigger than I originally estimated."
With the construction timeline slowly winding down, he
anticipates Ramen Jin opening as early as the middle of October.
At this time, he and his chef are tweaking the ingredients of
each ramen and carefully monitoring the results - adjusting the
contents of pork, bone, garlic oil, etc.
It was obvious to me that Ramen Jin will attempt to offer a
limited selection of commonly-known ramen while keeping it
simple for the customers. A no-nonsense approach.
"There will be no tipping at Ramen Jin. I don't want
to encourage that. You'll order your ramen, take a number
and enjoy your meal. If you're a fan of our ramen,
hopefully you'll come back to try the next one on the list."
As far as ramen prices, he isn't sure at this time. Right
now, he seems motivated to complete the grunt work and hop over
a few hurdles before he finalizes the costs. His biggest
concern seems to be completing the construction on time.
Although we merely skimmed a handful of
details in a 35-minute conversation, one subject raised an
eyebrow: the broth. According to Brian, he believes that
many ramen broths offered throughout Houston are not the
original creations of the chefs themselves. He believes
that most broths are not genuine concoctions in the kitchens.
While I'm curious about his sources, I'm even more curious about
his own recipes.
Additionally, he commented that he originally considered
offering his own, homemade ramen noodles but it proved too much
to handle. Now, he's developed a relationship with a
vendor that will provide an ideal noodle for his menu.
Near the end of the conversation, we discussed a handful of
options to welcome the first few groups of eager ramen lovers
inside for a sneak preview of the menu. But in Brian's
mind, that's still a month away.
"Right now...I have to finish the first part of the story
before I begin finalizing the next chapter."