Jun and Yoko Kuramoto are both extremely busy this week. Their much-anticipated restaurant is testing the waters with a soft opening. While opening any restaurant is no small task, it's especially daunting when it's your first one.
The Kuramoto's all-ramen restaurant, Ramen Ray, is bringing real Sapporo-style ramen bowls to the former INgredients building on Binford. While it is Jun's first restaurant, his wife Yoko comes from a family who are well-versed in the restaurant business.
"I am Japanese and I have been living in Indiana for more than 10 years now and there are no ramen restaurants here," says Jun Kuramoto. "I just decided that I should open it ... You know there are some restaurants serving ramen but not very authentic. I wanted to bring a very authentic recipe from Japan ... my goal is to serve a very fresh authentic noodle to the customer here."
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Traditional ramen broth is often multi-day project where the flavors and various styles have to be boiled over hours and and hours to open up savory proteins and fats. The small counter service restaurant is no exception.
"The main ingredient for the broth is a pork femur bone," says Kuramoto. "Chicken, onions, vegetables, ginger, carrots ... it takes about seven hours to finish one [stock] pot.
"The umami comes from the broth. And umami can have a spicy taste, a sweet taste, a bitter taste, and we just take a combination and cook the soup."
Kuramoto added that just over a year and half ago he decided that he not only wanted to bring the traditional bowl to Indy with force, he wanted to make sure he was doing it exactly right. He packed his bags and went to train in Japan.
Kuramoto insists on changing the expectations that people have of Ramen — the stale 99 cent version that kept you from death during college. Instead he is importing fresh noodles from the island of Hokkaido. The Japanese island is the point of origin for Sapporo-style ramen. It was only after mastering the intricate broth process and how to prepare the toppings and properly cook the noodles that he came home feeling ready.
"I know many people who are waiting, not only Japanese, for the last year since I started this project," says Kuramoto.
While there are literally thousands of types of ramen in Japan, Kuramoto will focus on Tonkotsu, a pork femur bone base. A few of the other popular styles are shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso.
His hope is to keep the menu simple and fresh with only a few ramen options and possible a rice dish or two.
"Some ramen has only the most simple toppings: the cashews, meat, soft boil egg and a little bit of scallions," says Kuramoto. A few of his will also have stir fried vegetables.
The new venture taps into something that Kuramoto has always enjoyed.
"I didn't have enough time to [cook] before but I like it," says Kuramoto. "My wife and I also like eating. Whenever we go out we try new restaurants."
We are looking forward to trying yours, Kuramotos.
If you go:
5628 E 71st St