Men Oh Tokushima Ramen will make you re-think the classic Japanese noodle dish.
Specializing in a ramen variation unique to Japan’s Tokushima region, Men Oh’s signature dish is unlike other ramen you’ve tasted — at least in the U.S.
“In Japan, every region has its own style of ramen,” said Jun Isogai, a general manager for the restaurant. “Tokushima ramen is a very rich, pork bone based broth — very savory.”
According to Isogai, who is handling restaurant development for the Los Angeles region, the Union City branch is the first location of the Japanese chain’s U.S. expansion.
Headquartered in southwestern Japan with 13 restaurants in Japan, Men Oh celebrated its Union City grand opening last weekend.
A second U.S. restaurant will open next month in San Francisco followed by a Los Angeles location, said Isogai, who’s in town to help with the Union City launch.
Located in the , the small restaurant has a 48 person max occupancy and shares an address at 34308 Alvarado-Niles Rd. with fellow Japanese restaurant . Shabuway, which also recently opened in Union City, is assisting Men Oh with its U.S. expansion, Men Oh’s general managers said.
Already creating a buzz in the community, the restaurant was crowded Thursday night.
First-time restaurant visitors might be surprised by Men Oh’s menu — there’s currently only one main dish, the Tokushima-style Tonkotsu Shoyu, with sides of Karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) and gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings).
More menu items, including a second ramen dish and rice plate side orders, will be unveiled in about two weeks, said Atsushi Aoki, the northern California general manager overseeing the Union City location.
Men Oh’s signature dish features a rich and savory pork bone-based and soy sauce seasoned broth served with chunks of pork, stir-fried pork belly, bamboo shoots, green onions and your choice of a raw or poached egg.
A bowl costs $7.95 with additional toppings ranging from 50 cents to $1.75.
According to Isogai, the Tokushima region in Japan is known for its pig farms. Once pigs are slaughtered, farmers are left with lots of bones, which caused them to get creative.
In addition to its pork bone base, Tokushima ramen is also distinct in that it’s topped with a raw egg. “We’re probably the only restaurant in the area that serves it raw,” Isogai said.
To ensure a safe, quality product, Men-Oh uses Davidson’s Safest Choice All-Natural pasteurized eggs.
“It costs more for us, but then we can bring that authentic experience to customers,” Isogai said.
While the menu may be limited, what it lacks in variety it makes up for in its rich, bold flavor.
“The Tonkotsu Shoyu is very fatty and rich — it might be overwhelming for the ramen novice,” Isogai warns.
Those who hear the word “ramen” and think back to their broke dorm room days may not be ready for the flavor, so Men Oh will soon offer a more mainstream dish — Tonkotsu Shio, a salt-seasoned variety topped with pork, jellyfish, green onions and seaweed. Isogai said the dish will be similar to ramen found at other restaurants in the region.
Another thing customers might notice is the restaurant’s simple yet stylish modern décor.
Designed by an interior designer from Japan, Men Oh’s walls and furniture feature a combination of wood and metal with an exposed ceiling and kitchen windows that allow customers to see the cooks in action. The design also pays homage to Japanese culture, with Japanese stones and metal arcs serving as centerpieces for two of its larger tables. Stones are a staple feature of Japanese gardens, Aoki said. The restaurant also features a large painting done by an artist in Japan, according to Aoki.
But why is Union City the Japanese brand’s U.S. guinea pig?
“Union City has a strong Asian population,” Isogai said. “This is a good mall with heavy foot traffic in the evenings and weekends. It’s a great place to test-launch our concept.”
And if Men Oh catches on here, it might just spread nationwide, too.
“Ultimately, our goal isn’t just for Asian or Asian Americans to enjoy our ramen, but for everyone to enjoy it,” Isogai said. “It’s a great dish. We hope we can have it not just in Union City or San Francisco but all over the U.S.”
Men Oh is located at 34308 Alvarado-Niles Rd. and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.