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De-omakase style community-based sushi restaurant opens

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By Elli Sekine / Eri Shimizu

New Japanese cuisine projects have been more and more diversified each year, and the trend of the sushi business of the last few years has been high-end omakase style. However, in the Polk Street area where the rent is relatively cheap, there are many restaurants and bars with unique concepts run by young owners and entrepreneurs, which can be enjoyed casually thanks to the reasonably pricing. In this highly hopeful-prospect area, “Kuma Sushi and Sake” recently opened by a collaboration of a Japanese chef and an American chef. They declare “De-omakase style”, which is a rapidly increasing trend, and aim for creating a locally-loved casual dining place. In only 2 months from the opening, they already have earned regular customers.

The co-owners/chefs, Ryo Sakai and Cory Jackson, hit it off with each other while being trained under the same chef, and have worked together in a few other local area restaurants such as “Blow Fish”. After that, the experience in a project they planned together, a popup called “Pink Zebra” made a huge impact on deciding to open this restaurant. Ryo has been living in the Bay Area since his parents moved there from Japan when he was 4 years old. While he was working part-time in a Japanese restaurant during his school years, he was promoted to the kitchen staff, and it opened his eyes to the joy of making sushi. On the other hand, Cory was influenced by his father who loved to cook, and hoped to become a chef at a young age. He was trained in a local Japanese restaurant, and then moved to the Bay Area. He continued his training there in the kitchens of Aqua and Zuni Café.

Once stepped into the restaurant, a natural and modern space opens up, and gray walls and white wood interior under a high ceiling especially attract your attention. Behind the sushi counter on the right are various bottles of famous brand sakes. The interior artwork, murals by a local artist, and the logo by a friend, etc., show their concept of connecting to the local community and crafsmanship. Their “Getas (sushi plate/stand) are hand-made using California wine barrels, with which Ryo fell in love with, and specially custom-ordered them. The Geta’s adequately curved shape and naturally stained color gives a special feeling.

Their particularity about the menu is to offer the freshest, seasonal fish at reasonable prices. In San Francisco, where many sushi restaurants already exist and new restaurants keep opening, it is not easy to survive without being distinctively different from others. In order to be different, they came up with the idea of limiting the numbers of menu items and tables, but increasing the local repeat customers. In order to achieve that, many ingenious ideas are used in choosing the distributors, menu items, and even the operation system. For the fish, multiple distributors are used, depending on whether the fish is local or from Japan. For the drinks, whether sake or wine, each category is narrowed down to only 1 or 2 brands. There are no small bottles of sake, and sake is served by a carafe or by a glass poured from big bottles. It is cost-effective not to carry small bottles which take up a lot of storage space. The reason for carrying both sake and wine is for better paring with different sushi. They recommend “Tojikan” made of 100% Yamada-nishiki. The “Sake Flight” with 3 kinds of sake ($14) is also popular. They plan to change the brands periodically. In order to make good rotations by eliminating empty tables, they do not take reservations. You have to wait at the waiting bar area until your table becomes available while drinking and snacking.

Besides the main a-la-carte dishes, there are popular items such as the chef’s special which is the “5 kinds of sashimi plate” ($32), “4-piece nigiri sushi” ($16), and “8-piece nigiri sushi” ($32). The average cost per person with a drink is about $60, which is pretty reasonable. Daily special sushi/sashimi menu items include traditional Edo-mae style sushi ingredients such as tai (Japanese sea bream) with konbu seaweed, marinated tuna, ocean eel, etc. They use red tuna, not fatty tuna, and use its center for sashimi or sushi, and flavorful outside for marinades.

In order to please people who are not familiar with raw fish, they have many original sushi rolls. The most popular roll is the “Hey Girl” ($14), which has tempura shrimp inside, and is topped with tuna and avocado. The secret of its popularity is to show the live shrimp to the customer right before tempura-frying it. They also offer items like vegetable sushi for vegetarians, to accommodate many customers of different preferences.

Both Ryo and Cory disclose that in the future, they would like to see the restaurant become a friendly neighborhood place which cherishes not only their customers, but also other nearby restaurants and businesses. I would like to continue to keep an eye on the future activities of this restaurant which should turn out to be a sustainable business model that raises community values.


脱・オマカセ、地域密着型寿司店がオープン

新しい日本食プロジェクトは年々多様化し、寿司はハイエンドな「オマカセ」がこの何年かの潮流となっている。ポークストリート界隈では、家賃が比較的安いこともあり、若いオーナーや起業家がチャレンジするユニークなコンセプトで手軽な価格で楽しめるレストランやバーが多いエリアだ。今後さらに注目を集めそうなこの地域に、日米の寿司シェフがタッグを組んだ寿司レストラン、Kuma Sushi and Sake が新しくオープンした。近年急増中の“脱、高級オマカセ寿司”を宣言、カジュアルで地元に愛される店作りを目指し、オープン2 ヶ月で早くも常連客を獲得している。

オーナーシェフのリョウ・サカイ氏とコーリー・ジャクソン氏は、同じシェフの元で修行をしていたことから意気投合し、その後市内の「Blow Fish」など数件の寿司店で共に働いてきた。特に今年まで協働していたポップアップ、「Pink Zebra」 での経験が今回の店のオープンに大きな影響を与えた。リョウ氏は両親とも日本からの移住で、4歳からベイエリア在住。学生の時、日本食レストランでアルバイトをしていた際、キッチンスタッフに抜粋され、寿司を握ることの楽しさに目覚めたという。一方ジャクソン氏は、料理好きな父の影響で幼い頃よりシェフを目指し、地元の日本食店で修行。その後ベイエリアに移りAquaやZuniCafe のキッチンでも修行を重ねた。

店内に一歩足を踏み入れると、ナチュラルモダンな空間が広がり、中でも高い天井にグレーの壁と白木が目を引く。右手の寿司カウンターの背後には各種名酒がずらりと並んでいる。インテリアは、ローカルアーティストによる壁画や友達がロゴを制作するなど、地域と繋がりとクラフト感を大切にしている。寿司を乗せるゲタはカリフォルニアワインの樽を使った手作りで、リョウ氏が特に気に入って特別に注文したらしい。絶妙な丸みと使い込んだ色合いが風合いを持たせている。

メニューのこだわりは、旬の最高の魚を手頃な価格で提供すること。もともと既存の寿司店が多い上に近年新規参入も続くサンフランシスコでは、他店との差別化なしでは生き残りは難しい。そこで考えたのが、アイテム数と席数を抑え、地元のリピーターを増やすという方向性だった。そのため仕入れ先からメニューの決定、運営システムまで様々な工夫をしている。魚はローカルのものと日本からの魚を中心に扱う業者を複数使い分け、ドリンクリストは酒、ワインともそれぞれのカテゴリーから1〜2種ずつに絞り込んでいる。酒は小瓶は置かず一升瓶で仕入れた物をカラフェとグラスで提供する。保管スペースを取る小瓶を置かないことでコスト削減となるという。酒もワインも選ぶポイントは寿司とのペアリング。おすすめの銘柄は山田錦を100%使用した「杜氏鑑」。3種の酒フライト($14)も人気がある。今後銘柄は定期的に入れ替えていく予定。空席を減らし回転率をあげるため、予約はとらない。客は席が空くまで店内のウェイティングバーでドリンクとつまみを楽しみながら待つ。

料理はアラカルトが基本だが、シェフおすすめの刺身5種盛り合わせ($32) や寿司4 貫($16) または8 貫($32) のセットも人気。価格は平均ドリンクを含んでも$60程度と手頃な価格設定だ。日替わりの寿司・刺身メニューには鯛の昆布締めやマグロの漬け、穴子など伝統的な江戸前ネタもある。マグロはあえてトロは置かず赤身のみだが、芯の部分はそのまま、外側は旨味が強いので漬けになど素材を活かす工夫をしている。生魚に抵抗のある客も楽しめるようにと、オリジナルのロール寿司の種類も多い。一番人気はエビの天ぷらを巻きマグロとアボカドをトッピングした「Hey Girl」($14)。揚げる前に客に生きたエビを見せるパフォーマンスも人気の秘密だ。またベジタリアン向きにも野菜寿司があり、様々な嗜好の客をターゲットにしている。

また、両氏は今後の店づくりとして、地元経済が発展するよう近隣の飲食店やほかのビジネスも「仲間」と意識する「地域作り」に貢献したいと語る。コミュニティの価値を上げる持続可能なビジネスモデルを掲げる同店の活動を注視していきたい。



Kuma Sushi and sake
1040 Polk St. at Post
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 962-7400
http://www.kumasf.com/

Tues – Thurs 11:30am to 2pm, 5:30pm to 10pm
Friday 11:30am to 2pm, 5:30pm to 11pm
Saturday 5:30pm to 11pm
Sunday 5:30pm to 10pm
Closed on Monday
#alljapannews #sushi #SF #kumasushiandsake #sashimi

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Expanding consumption areas for Japanese sake and shochu

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By Yuji Matsumoto

Recently in the U.S., wine discount stores like BevMo and Total Wine and More, etc., are prosperous. Also, rural areas have local large liquor stores that sell various alcoholic beverages (tequila, ji-beer (local craft beers), champagne, whiskey, etc.) in addition to wine. When I went to Las Vegas last week, I stopped by the largest local liquor chain store, where I was surprised to see the very limited selections of Japanese sake. With various foreign tequilas, wines, and ji-beer lining the shelves, why were there so little selections of Japanese sake offered? Also, the few selections available were without tages and lost in the “Asian” alcoholic section.

With the current Sake Tour indicating high public interest in Japanese sake and shochu, it’s disappointing to see so few outlets offering the products. The question I’m most often asked is, “This sake is delicious. Where can I buy it?” However, as of yet, the only answer I can provide is our restaurant. I’m also surprised to see customers who wish to purchase by the bottle.

Over ninety-percent of Japanese sake and shochu consumption takes place at Japanese restaurants. However, as long as this is the case, the market will not expand. Japan-affiliated markets are available only in some major cities. To have Americans consume sake and shochu “at home,” it is necessary for these products to be distributed more and more to specialty liquor stores and their staff trained.

The other day, I participated in a wine sampling held at a liquor store in Pasadena, Calif. I paid five dollars at the front, then enjoyed various red wines and cheese with various customers in a small crowded corner no more than 107 ft2. I thought for a second, “This would be fun to try with Japanese sake.”


日本酒・焼酎の消費現場の拡大

最近米国ではBevmoやTotal Wine and Moreなどのワインディスカウント店が繁盛している。また地方に行くと地元の大型リカーショップ店があり、これらの店にはワイン以外にありとあらゆるアルコール飲料(テキーラ、地ビール、シャンペン、ウィスキー等)が陳列されている。先週ラスベガスに行った際にも地元最大のリカーチェーン店に足を運んでみたが、日本酒の種類の乏しさに唖然とした。海外産のテキーラやワイン、地ビールがこんなにあるのになぜ日本酒がこんなに少ないのか、また、何もタグがなく、ただ「Asian」のアルコールの中に埋もれていた。

現在行っているSake Tourでこれだけ日本酒や焼酎に興味を持っている人がいるのに、購入する場所がないのはとても残念なことだ。一番多く受ける質問は、「この酒美味しいですね、どこで買えるのか?」である。しかし、現状としては当店のレストランのみ、ということしか言えない。ボトルで購入したい、という顧客の多さには驚くばかりだ。

日本酒や焼酎の消費現場の9割以上が日本食レストランだ。しかし、これを変えない以上市場は広がらない。日系マーケットは、ほんの一部の大都市にしかなく、米国人に「家庭で消費」させるには、もっともっとこのような専門リカー店に卸し、彼らを教育していく必要があるのではないだろうか。

先日、パサデナ(カリフォルニア州)のリカー店でワインのサンプリングをしていたので参加してみた。フロントで5ドルほどを支払い、3畳もない狭い一角に多くの顧客がいろいろな赤ワインとチーズを楽しんでいた。これを日本酒でやってみたら面白いのではないか、とふと思った。
#alljapannews #sake #shochu

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“Best in the World! International Wine Challenge (IWC) Champion” Part 2

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By Kosuke Kuji

Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai uses Iwate prefecture original sake rice “Ginotome” produced by Ninohe city, Iwate. This “Ginotome” was developed by the agricultural team headed by Mr. Ryouichi Itsukaichi of Kindaichi, Ninohe from the period of experimental growing. Then we did experimental brewing at our company, had the rice certified as the original sake rice of Iwate prefecture, and have worked hard hand-in-hand together with the farmers. For the Tokubetsu Junmai that takes pride of the ultimate ‘terroir’ (meaning ‘land’ in French) to surely shine as the champion sake using the rice of Ninohe, clear water of Orizumebasenkyo in Ninohe, and brewed by a brewery in Ninohe has to be a miracle created by a small town of little over 28,000 people. It has been proved that …made in Iwate … made in Ninohe … is the world’s best.

We have achieved this wonderful prize, but this is not the end of our goal for Nanbu Bijin, this will be the start to polish our family precept of “Quality First” and achieve further development. We are placed in the responsible position of future Japanese sake and will work even harder than before to build an age for all Japan to try Japanese sake. We will not stop improving and work harder than ever to do better. I want to thank all the people that have been supporting us and report our victory of receiving the IWC Champion Sake Award.

“Cheers with Japanese Sake Around the World”


「世界一獲得!インターナショナルワインチャレンジ(IWC)チャンピオン」その2

南部美人特別純米酒は、岩手県二戸市産の岩手県オリジナル酒造好適米「ぎんおとめ」を使用しています。この「ぎんおとめ」は試験栽培の時代から、二戸市金田一の五日市亮一さんを筆頭とする農家のチームが育ててきました。そして試験醸造も当社で行い、岩手県のオリジナル酒造好適米に認定していただき、今まで農家の皆さんと二人三脚で頑張ってきました。その二戸の米で、二戸の折爪馬仙峡の清らかな伏流水で、二戸の南部杜氏が、二戸の酒蔵で醸した、究極のテロワールを誇る特別純米酒が見事チャンピオン酒に輝いたことは、まさに人口2万8000人ちょっとの小さなまちが起こした奇跡とも言えます。メイドイン岩手、メイドイン二戸の価値が世界一に認定されたのです。

まさに「小さなまちの大きな挑戦」の成果が出た瞬間でもありました。

ここまで素晴らしい賞をいただき、南部美人はここがゴールではなく、ここをスタートに家訓でもある「品質一筋」に磨きをかけ、さらなる進化を遂げなければいけません。日本酒の未来に責任を負う立場に立ち、世界へ日本酒の価値をさらに広め、日本中で日本酒が評価していただく時代を築くために、これからも今まで以上に頑張っていきたいと思います。歩みを止めず、今まで以上に前に進んでいきたいと思います。ここまで応援していただいた全ての皆さんに感謝を申し上げ、IWCチャンピオン酒受賞の報告とさせていただきます。

「世界中で、日本酒で乾杯!!!」
#alljapannews #winechallenge #IWC #Ginotome

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Bringing peace of mind to New Yorkers by spreading the practice of Japanese tea ceremony

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Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New... Bringing peace of mind to New...
By Aya Ota

“I need to spread the practice of Japanese Tea Ceremony in New York!” Soheki Mori, tea master, thought intuitively when she visited New York 22 years ago.

“Such a busy city should seek spiritual consolation which the tea ceremony can bring.” Since then, Soheki visited New York every year for 15 years in a row while seriously mastering the tea ceremony in Japan.

In 2011, she moved to the US with her husband, Junya Mori, who is also her business partner. Shortly after their move, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, which made them feel even more determined about spreading the practice of Japanese tea ceremony. While they were looking for something to do to support Japan’s disaster areas, the language school they were attending made a suggestion, that was to submit the tea ceremony experience as a charity auction. Since then, they held charity tea ceremony events frequently, and in 2015, they finally found a company to spread such activities more widely. Then, in April of 2017, they opened a long-awaited tea house, “Setsugekka”.

The word, “Setsugekka” in Japanese, consists of 3 Chinese characters, Setsu (snow), Getsu (moon), and Ka (flowers), which expresses Japanese seasonal beauty. As the name suggests, once you step into the shop, the chaos of the East Village vanishes instantly, and you feel as if you stepped into a different world. A space of tatami mats imported from Japan is set up near the entrance, and there is counter space in the back. It is a beautiful and sophisticated looking place.

In order for the customers to fully enjoy matcha, the main item, they offer many ways to serve it. You can choose your favorite type of container (ceramic bowl, paper cup, or glass), temperature (warm, cold, or room temperature), thickness, straight or with milk, etc.

There are 3 different grades of matcha choices too, and overall, there are more than 30 different ways of customization. Soheki makes tea in front of each customer, and gives a detailed explanation as to how to drink it. It is such a special treat to be able to enjoy freshly stone-ground matcha. After trying many different types of milk for “Matcha Latte”, “Matcha-ppuchino”, etc., Soheki adopted non-dairy almond milk as the best match to matcha. The “Matcha Affogato”, which is milk gelato served with thick matcha poured onto it, is one of customers’ favorites. The reason for choosing milk gelato instead of vanilla ice cream was to avoid the vanilla flavor to work against the matcha flavor. The pricing differs depending on the kind of matcha, but is set reasonably to attract more regular customers. For the confectionary to match the matcha drinks, they sell rice flour-based baked items imported from Japanese patisseries in their original packages, and for weekends, they serve Japanese style mochi confectionary made by a patisserie who resides in New York.

While running the tea house, they hold tea ceremony classes and meetings regularly at Setsugekka. The attendees are made up of various genders, ages, nationalities, and occupations. Also, once a month, they hold another type of event or exhibition in collaboration with pottery artists, confectionary artisans, calligraphers, etc. All these added ventures create a synergy effect, and bring in more customers. It is not easy to accumulate customers on weekdays in the East Village, so they use SNS such as Facebook and Instagram, and e-newsletters to advertise. The sales of matcha and tea bowls are doing well, too. Their matcha is all made in Japan. The selection includes organically-grown “Ishikawa” (Ishikawa Seicha/Toyota, Aichi), “Hosinotsuyu”, “Seiju” (Hoshino-Seichaen /Yame, Fukuoka), “Joubetsugi”, “Senjunomukashi” (Honey&Sons), “PANATEA”. Mr. and Mrs. Mori visited all the producers, and carefully selected these matcha, checking not only the taste, but also learning the background of each tea manufacturer.

They also visited creators of tea ceremony bowls and utensils, and hand-selected authentic and high-quality items.

They are already so busy handling such a wide variety of businesses by themselves, but there are still a lot more activities that they want to materialize.

They often get requests for lectures and demonstrations from universities and community colleges, and want to do more workshops to familiarize matcha in the everyday lives of people in the community. They also want to open a shop in the Midtown district to achieve their original goal of providing peace of mind to busy people. Furthermore, they are also looking passionately into the future for expanding the business to the West Coast, Paris, and Japan.


茶道を広めニューヨークに安らぎをもたらす

「ニューヨークで茶道を広めたい」——茶道家の森宗碧氏が直感的にそう感じたのは、今から22年前にニューヨークを訪れたときのことだった。「多忙な街だからこそ、茶道がもたらす精神的な安らぎが求められているのではないか」——以来、宗碧氏は本格的に茶道を学ぶ傍ら、15年間連続でニューヨークを訪れた。そして2011年、ビジネスパートナーでもある夫の森絢也氏と共に渡米。その直後に、東日本大震災が発生したことが、「茶道を広めたい」という二人の想いをさらに強くする運命的な出来事になったのだろう。「日本のために何かしたい」と考えていたところ、当時通学していた語学学校から「茶道体験をチャリティーオークションとして出品してはどうか」と提案があった。それをきっかけに頻繁にチャリティー茶会を行うようになり、2015年には活動の幅を広げるべく会社を設立。そして2017年4月、満を持してティーハウス『雪月華』開店に至った。

『雪月華』とは、漢字では雪・月・華の三文字で構成され、日本の美しい季節の風景を表現する言葉。その名の通り、店内に足を踏み入れると、イーストヴィレッジの喧騒が一瞬にして静まり、まるで別世界に入り込んだような錯覚を覚える。手前には日本から取り寄せた畳の座敷、奥にはカウンター席が配置され、美しく洗練された空間だ。

主役である抹茶を存分に楽しんでもらうために、提供方法は細かく分類されている。容器(茶碗・カップ・グラス)、好みの温度(温・冷・常温)、抹茶の濃さ、ストレートなのかミルクを加えるのか…。さらに抹茶を常時3種類から選ぶことができ、実に30種類以上ものカスタマイズができる仕組みだ。一人一人の客に対し丁寧に飲み方を説明し、宗碧氏が目の前で一杯ずつ入れてくれる。店内に設置された石臼で碾き立ての抹茶を楽しめるのも格別の体験だ。「抹茶ラテ)」や「抹茶プチーノ」には、さまざまなミルクを試した結果、抹茶との相性を考え、植物性のアーモンドミルクを採用した。濃茶をミルク・ジェラートにかける「抹茶アフォガート」は人気メニューのひとつ。バニラ・アイスクリームではなく、ミルク・ジェラートを選んだのは、バニラの香りが抹茶の風味を妨げるという理由からだ。価格は、抹茶の種類によって異なるが「定期的に来てほしい」という考えから、リーズナブルに設定している。抹茶に合わせる菓子は、日本のパティスリーより取り寄せた米粉の焼き菓子をオリジナルのパッケージで販売しているほか、週末には ニューヨーク在住のパティシエが作るお餅を使った和菓子を提供している。

ティーハウス運営の傍ら、茶道稽古や茶会も同場所で定期的に開催。参加者は老若男女、人種も職業もさまざまだ。また、月1回の頻度で、陶芸家や菓子職人、書道家らとコラボレーションしてイベントや展示会も実施している。これらすべての事業が相乗効果を生み、集客に好循環をもたらしているという。イーストヴィレッジという立地上、平日の集客は簡単ではないが、フェイスブックやインスタグラムなどのSNSやEニュースレターを活用している。抹茶や茶器などの物販も好調だ。抹茶はすべて日本産で、有機栽培抹茶「いしかわ」(いしかわ製茶、愛知県豊田市)、「星の露」「星授」(星野製茶園、福岡県八女市)、「上別儀」「千寿の昔」(Honey&Sons)、「PANATEA」など複数用意。どれも、夫婦で生産者を訪問し、味はもちろんのこと、背景やストーリーもよく知った上で厳選した。茶碗や茶杓など茶器も、夫婦で作家や職人を訪ね、本格的で高品質なものを揃えている。

これだけ多岐にわたる事業を夫婦二人でこなしているので多忙だが、まだまだ実現させたい活動が山積しているという。大学やコミュニティカレッジからも講義や実演の依頼も多く、抹茶を身近に感じてもらえるようなワークショップも増やしたいと考えている。また、「忙しい人にこそ安らぎを提供したい」という当初の目的を達成するべく、ミッドタウン地区へ出店したいという展望もある。将来は、西海岸、パリ、日本への展開も視野に入れ、情熱を燃やす日々だ。



Setsugekka East Village
74 E 7th Street
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 646-895-9586
https://www.setsugekkany.com/

Mon, Wed – Fri 10:30am - 6pm
Sat, Sun 10:30am - 7pm
Tuesday Closed
*Changes depending on the tea ceremony class or the event
#alljapannews #NY #Setsugekkaeastvillage #matcha #tea #ceremony

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A restaurant with concentrated hopes for “Succession of Sushi Culture”

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A restaurant wi... A restaurant wi... A restaurant wi... A restaurant wi... A restaurant wi...
By Keiko Fukuda

I still remember that I almost always ended up choosing “Koto” near the airport for the place to have lunch when I was in Orange County. This Koto has moved from the old location near John Wayne Airport to Fountain Valley now, and is still doing well under the operation of the owner/ chef Yasuo Matsuki who used to be in charge of the old Koto.

The original Koto was operated by a Japanese sushi restaurant “Tsukiji Tama Sushi”. Mr. Matsuki was assigned to run their first American development, and came to the US in January of 1991. “Koto” then made its grand opening in February of 1992. The restaurant was a dignified-looking structure with a Japanese garden, and gradually became more and more known as a place where you could enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine and sushi.

“Back then, there were many Japanese companies nearby, and many people including those from the nearby businesses used to come. The first 3 years were a series of trial and error periods. However, the restaurant was gradually becoming known, and the condition of the operation was improving,” Mr. Matsuki reminisces. The business continued to pick up after that as well. However, the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York changed the scene drastically.

“Foreign tourists stopped coming to the US, and domestic people stopped traveling as well. The restaurant business was also suffering.” Despite all that, Tsukiji Tama Sushi continued to run Koto until 2004.

When they finally decided to withdraw from America, it was expected that Mr. Matsuki was ordered to go back to Japan. However, Matsuki chose to remain in the US. “I was ordered to go back to Japan, but I decided to quit, and started a small restaurant by myself. I had been working on the succession of Japanese cuisine in America, and I wanted to continue it to expand further rather than quitting in the middle. I really wanted more people to enjoy sushi here.”

In 2005, he started a restaurant under the name, “Mimi”. After he got permission from Tsukiji Tama Sushi for using the name “Koto” in 2008, the restaurant was restarted as the newly reborn “Koto”.

I asked Mr. Matsuki what has changed since he started to run the business. He answered, “I feel the same way as the time when I first came to the US in 1991. I just want to offer customers safe and delicious food. I cook and run my business with this one and only purpose.”

Mr. Matsuki has a 46-year career in this business. He used to be a pitcher in a corporation- supported amateur baseball team. He injured his elbow when he was 22 years old, and gave up playing baseball. Through a recommendation of an acquaintance, he started to train to change his career to become a sushi chef. With the phrase in mind, “Train in Ginza if you want to become a topnotch artisan!”, he was hired in Tama Sushi, and eventually became the manager in charge of their Ginza branch. He said, “When I was at the Ginza branch, Japan was in the bubble economy period. The sales of the Ginza restaurant was rising rapidly, and the restaurant was open late, welcoming customers until after midnight.” He was then singled out to be assigned to manage the US development.

The secret to Koto’s popularity is Mr. Matsuki’s continuous efforts to offer the best quality cooking by utilizing his long career as a sushi chef. Their Sunday brunch with a discount for seniors over 65 years of age (adults: $32, seniors: $28, 12 or younger: $20, and free for 3 or younger) is very popular. Various seafood bowls and chirashi- sushi are beautiful to look at, taste delicious, and reasonably priced.

Many ingredients come directly from Tsukiji Market, which cost 3 times more than locally bought ingredients, but they never compromise with the quality of the food ingredients. Koto’s cuisine is surely the concentration of the sincere attitude of Mr. Matsuki who decided to remain in the US to continue his purpose that is the succession of Japanese cuisine in the US.


「寿司文化継承」の思いが凝縮された店

今でも思い出すのは、オレンジ郡でどこかランチに行く時には必ずと言っていいほど「空港の近くの古都にしよう」という結論にたどり着いていたことだ。今、その古都は場所を以前のジョン・ウェイン空港のそばからファウンテンバレーに移し、当時責任者を務めていた松木保雄さんがオーナーシェフとなって、変わらずに盛業中だ。

最初の古都は、日本の寿司店、築地玉寿司の経営だった。アメリカ出店に伴い、経営を任された松木さんは1991 年1 月に渡米。古都は1992年2月にはグランドオープンを迎えた。日本庭園を備えた堂々とした店構え。本格的な和食と寿司が楽しめる店として徐々に知られるようになった。

「当時は周辺に日系企業もたくさんあったので、企業の方も含めてたくさんのお客様に来ていただきました。しかし、それでも最初の3 年間は試行錯誤の連続。少しずつ認知度を高めて経営状態が良くなってきました」と松木さんは振り返る。経営はその後も上向いていったが、大きな転機となったのは、2001 年のニューヨークで起こった同時多発テロだった。

「旅行の方が一気にアメリカに来なくなったり、人が動かなくなったりして、店は低迷しました」 それでも2004 年まで、築地玉寿司は古都の経営を続けた。撤退が決まった時に、当然、松木さんにも帰国辞令が出た。しかし、松木さんはアメリカに留まる道を選択した。

「帰ってこい、と言われましたが退職願を出して、自分で小さな店を始めることにしました。アメリカの地で日本食を継承していくために取り組んできたのですから、それを途中で止めることなく、さらに広めていきたいと思ったからでした。寿司をより多くの人に食べていただきたい、その気持ちがありました」 2005 年にはミミという名前で店を始めたが、その後、築地玉寿司から「古都」の店名の使用許可を得て、2008 年に新生「古都」として再スタートを切った。

経営者になってから何が変わったかを聞くと、松木さんは「今も1991 年にやって来た時と同じ気持ちです。お客さんに安全で美味しいものを食べていただきたい、その一心で料理と店の運営に取り組んでいます」と答えた。松木さんはこの道46 年。もともとは社会人野球の選手でピッチャーだった。22歳で肘を故障して野球人生を断念。寿司職人への転身を知り合いに勧められ、修行を始めた。

さらに「一流の職人になるには銀座」の言葉を胸に、玉寿司に入社し、銀座店を任されるまでになった。「銀座店時代は日本のバブルの時期でした。銀座の売り上げはウナギのぼり。玉寿司の銀座店も深夜もずっと営業してお客さんを迎えていました」。そしてアメリカ出店時に白羽の矢が立った。

古都の人気の秘密は松木さんの長年の寿司職人の経験を生かして、最高品質の料理を出し続けていることだ。日曜には65 歳以上のシニアには割引料金が適用されるサンデーブランチ($32.00、シニア$28.00、12 歳以下$20、3歳以下無料)も人気を集めている。各種の海鮮丼やちらし寿司は見て美しく、食べて美味しく、さらに非常にリーズナブルな料金に抑えられている点が良心的。築地から直接仕入れている食材が多く、ローカルで調達するよりも3倍のコストがかかっているそうだ。それでも食材に妥協することはない。古都の料理には、日本食継承のために渡米し、そしてアメリカに留まった松木オーナーの真摯な姿勢が凝縮されている。



Koto
18120 Brookhurst St. Unit 25
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 964-0988
http://www.kotooc.com/

Mon.- Thu. 11:30am-14:00pm
5:00pm-9:30pm

Fri. 11:30am-2:15pm
5:00pm-10:00pm

Sat. 11:30am-2:45pm
5:00pm-10:00pm

Sun. 11:30am-2:45pm
5:00pm-9:00pm
7 days open
#alljapannews #koto #CA #Japanese #sushi #cuisine

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SF Ramen Trend, 2017

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SF Ramen Trend, 2017 SF Ramen Trend, 2017 SF Ramen Trend, 2017 SF Ramen Trend, 2017 SF Ramen Trend, 2017 Hidenoya Hidenoya Hidenoya Hidenoya Marufuku Marufuku Marufuku Marufuku Nojyo Nojyo Nojyo Nojyo Orenchi Orenchi Orenchi Orenchi Yoroshiku Yoroshiku Yoroshiku Yoroshiku
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.
http://nojosf.com/

2. YOROSHIKU
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.
https://www.yoroshikuseattle.com/

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.
http://orenchi-beyond.com/
  
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.
https://www.marufukuramen.com/

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.
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SFラーメントレンド2017

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
看板メニューは、チキンレッグが丸ごと丼に入ったゴージャスなChickenPaitan(店頭価格$18.50)。こってり濃厚なブロスはジンジャーやゆずの味のアクセントがあり、味わい深くボリューミーな絶品。全粒粉を使用した中太縮れ麺はカスタムメイド。 

2. YOROSHIKU
 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

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Bizarre labels on Japanese Sake bottles

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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.


奇怪な日本酒ラベル

以前にも繰り返し日本酒ラベルのブランディングのマーケッティング不足について話を書いてきているが、未だにほとんどの蔵元が実践していないのは非常に残念なことだ。

日本酒で新商品がでるたびに以前のラベルと全く違う顔のラベルを使ったものを使用している会社が多い。

これは、身近にある商品を手に取ってみるといかに奇妙なマーケッティング戦略であるかが分かるはずだ。たとえば、ウォッカ。ボトルの色を変えることはあってもラベルのデザイン変更や会社ロゴの字体を変えた商品はまずない。ワイン、ウィスキー、ビールどの商品をとっても基本的にその会社と一目でわかるようになっている。

ワインは、ラベルに関してはデザインが一緒でブドウ品種によりボトルの形状や色を変えている。ウォッカについては、ボトルの形状が一緒でフレイバーによりラベルの色だけを変えているケースが多い。ビールは、ライトとレギュラーで色別でデザインは一緒、というようにどのアルコール商品を見ても統一されている。しかし、なぜ日本酒だけはそうでないであろうか?一つのブランドを立ち上げるための費用と時間を考えると“奇怪”としか言えない。

ある酒造会社によると日本での小売の棚取りの際、同じブランドが多数並んでいると消費者が戸惑うからラベル変更しざる追えないという話を聞いたことがある。また、もし現状のブランドが失敗したら連鎖で他のものも影響が出る、という意見もあった。

現存する日本酒をみてみるとにごり酒、純米、吟醸、大吟醸と全てラベルが統一されている会社は一社もない。どこかデザインや字体に手を入れてあることに気づくであろう。

米国人はブランドに対してのロイヤルティーが強い。しかも日本語は読めない人が圧倒的である中、統一したブランドロゴデザインを使用することで、純米を気に入ってくれた人は次は同じブランドの吟醸や大吟醸、またはにごりを試していくことに繋げていけるはずである。
#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #branding #sommelier

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

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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.


「世界一獲得!インターナショナルワインチャレンジ(IWC)チャンピオン」その1

本年度のインターナショナルワインチャレンジ(IWC)2017において、「南部美人特別純米酒」が見事「チャンピオンサケ」を獲得しました!!

海外産を含めて390社から9つの部門に合計1245銘柄がエントリーされ、その中から、各部門の9つの第1位(トロフィー)の蔵元がロンドンの表彰式に集まり、その9つの第1位(トロフィー)の中から、たった1つだけがチャンピオンサケに選ばれます。1245の中の唯一の1位(チャンピオン)、IWCのチャンピオン酒が世界一の日本酒と言われる理由です。

私は昨年、本醸造の第1位(トロフィー)を受賞して、初めてこのロンドンの表彰式の場に出席しました。その場で昨年のチャンピオンサケの出羽桜酒造さんが発表され、日本酒の未来を背負いながらステージに登壇する仲野社長の後ろ姿を見ながら、いつかはこのチャンピオンを南部美人に持ち帰りたい、そしてここまで頑張り続けたうちの松森杜氏をはじめとする製造スタッフ、それをサポートする全社員に、自分たちの仕事が世界一に繋がったという誇りと感動を感じてもらいたい、さらには南部美人を育ててくれた岩手県と二戸市に恩返しをしたい、そのように思っていました。

まさか今年、その思いが実現するとは夢にも思っていませんでした。ここ数年の酒質向上のための改革と努力、そしてあくなき挑戦の成果が実を結びました。この賞は、まさにチーム南部美人一丸となって受賞した最高の歓びでもあります。
#alljapannews #sake #nation #wine #challenge

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

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Aiming to be th... Aiming to be th... Aiming to be th... Aiming to be th... Aiming to be th... Aiming to be th...
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.


一杯のラーメンに情熱を注ぎ込み、とんこつラーメン専門店として世界一を目指す

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。



ICHIRAN
374 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 381-0491
https://en.ichiran.com/

Everyday 11:00am-11:00pm
Weekday (Monday to Friday)
11:00am-6:00pm

[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

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

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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.


讃岐うどん専門店「丸亀製麺」アメリカ本土初上陸

丸亀製麺の初体験はハワイだった。今から5年ほど前、私はワイキキのクヒオ通りを挟んで丸亀製麺の向かい側のホテルに宿泊していた。かねてより、ハワイ在住者のブログを読んで、いかに同店が当地で人気かを知っていたので、滞在中に絶対に食べに行こうと思っていたのだった。

そして、時折、ホテルの部屋から店を見下ろすたび、ランチタイムやディナータイムに関係なく、店の前には長蛇の行列が伸びていた。「これはもう並ばずには食べられないのだ」と覚悟を決めて、私は行列に並んだ。そして、最初にうどんの種類を選び、さらにトッピングの天ぷらを選ぶというカフェテリア方式のうどんを体験した。楽しかった。そして美味しかった。次は違う種類のうどんに違う天ぷらをトッピングしてみたいと思った。うどんは日本人の筆者にとって、決して新しい食べ物ではないのだが、なぜか、丸亀製麺は非常に新鮮な食体験に映った。

その後、日本に帰省するたびに、日本に数あるチェーン店、丸亀製麺に足を運んだ。そして、そのカフェテリア方式の楽しさと本格的な味は、日本でもハワイでも同じだということを知った。

そうなると「なぜハワイにあってロサンゼルスにないのだ」と思うようになってきた。しかし、遂に2017年9月、ウエストロサンゼルスのソーテル通りに米国本土1号店が開店した。ソーテルと言えば、寿司、ラーメン、日本スタイルのカレー、焼き鳥、手羽先といったレストランが通りの両側にびっしりと並ぶ「日本食激選区」。

店の前にはおなじみの「丸亀製麺」と漢字で書かれた提灯が下がっている。店内に入るとすぐそこからうどんを注文するカウンターがあり、カウンター越しにキビキビと働くスタッフの姿が見える。グランドオープニングの直前に開催された試食会のこの日、私はいつもとは違う肉玉うどんをオーダー。まだ残暑が感じられる時期なのでコールドうどんにした。さらに、揚げたてサクサクの天ぷらはちくわ、イカ、鶏肉、唐揚げ(鶏肉の天ぷらとは別商品)、アスパラガスを取った。これはもう明らかに取りすぎだと思ったが、手が伸びてしまったものは仕方ない。

こうして流れるように自分の食べたいものをトレイの上に並べられるのが、大きな魅力。リーズナブルな料金に、打ちたて、茹でたてのうどん、さらにサクサクの天ぷらという商品自体の魅力に加えて、私のようにせっかちな人間には「注文してから食べるまでの待ち時間」が発生しないことも非常に大きい。あとは、無料のネギや天かすを乗せてテーブルに運べば、食事はすぐにスタートできる。

肝心の味はやはり期待を裏切らないものだった。うどんの満足度も高かったが、印象的だったのが唐揚げ。下味をどうやってつけているのか知りたくなるほど、癖になる美味しさだ。

この日は天ぷらを取りすぎてしまったために、料金にするとドリンクも入れて15ドルほど。しかし、普通のかけうどんに天ぷらをプラスしただけだと余裕で10ドル以内に収まる、非常にお得な料金設定だ。うどん以外にスパイシーツナ、ツナアボカド、ツナいくらをはじめとする各種の丼ぶりも揃っている。これもまた目の前でカウンター越しに手早く作ってくれるので、作りたてが味わえる。

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。



MARUGAMEUDON
2029 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025
424-317-2222
http://marugameudon.com/

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

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