Santouka Ramen Will Open Second Boston Store in Back Bay
UPDATE, May 3: Santouka in now hiring for its Back Bay ramen shop. It could open at the end of May, a representative says.
Straight from Hokkaido, Japan, Santouka Ramen landed in Harvard Square around this time last year, and the Boston area is better for it. Its silky shio ramen helped the casual shop earn a spot on Boston‘s list of Best New Restaurants, and soon, soup fans on this side of the Charles can get their fix without a trip on the Red Line. Santouka Ramen will open in Back Bay this spring, Eater Boston first reported.
“When we did a pop-up two years ago, most of the customers told us to please go near where colleges are located,” says Nao White, a consultant who works with Japanese restaurants, and has been involved with Santouka’s Boston expansion since the beginning. “Now, Santouka has been so welcomed, we want ourselves also to be recognized in the city [of Boston].”
Santouka was founded in 1988 by Hitoshi Hatanaka, and it now includes locations throughout Japan, plus six in California, and one each in Hawaii, Washington, Chicago, and New Jersey.
The new shop, which White hopes will open this May, is headed for a college-friendly area at 66 Hereford St., between Boylston and Newbury streets. It will only have 16 seats (the Cambridge location has 59), and will have a streamlined menu prepared in a subterranean kitchen. The small storefront was previously a Japanese noodle shop called Men Tai, but White says it requires a gut renovation. The kitchen will end up with the same number of cooking surfaces that Harvard Square has, despite being less than half its size, because of all the prep work necessary for the noodle bowls, White says.
Over the past several months, the team looked at locations in the Financial District, on Newbury Street, and elsewhere in the city. “However, we want our ramen to be very affordable. Rent in most of downtown Boston did not make sense for our expansion plan,” White says.
They signed a lease the Back Bay lease in November, and construction is underway.
“What we are trying to accomplish is comfortable, cozy, quick in-and-out. It will be similar to what you would find in authentic ramen shops in Japan,” White says.
Santouka Back Bay will offer chef Taka Igo’s four main ramen bowls—the signature shio, shoyu, miso, and spicy miso—and two rice dishes, including shiyake ikura, with grilled salmon and salmon roe. There will be no alcohol, nor a takeout option. “The purpose of you going in there is to enjoy noodles,” White says.
A vegetarian ramen, an off-menu item now available in Cambridge, won’t be offered, but down the road, there is potential for the Back Bay kitchen to be a “testing lab” for the company, White says. “But I think the demand will be so overwhelming because the seating capacity is so small, so we want to make sure we can deliver our signature to Boston.”
Next up for Santouka is bringing that stamp to the Seaport. The company is developing its third location there for 2017 or 2018, White says.
Santouka Ramen, One Bow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge; 617-945-1460 or santouka-usa.com.