ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If your idea of ramen is microwavable noodles in a Styrofoam cup, Kenny Wang is about to throw you a curve ball.
Wang and his wife, Eva, recently opened a traditional Japanese ramen shop across the street from the University of New Mexico.
At O Ramen House, the Tonkotsu (pork bone) broth – the foundation of several dishes – takes 18 hours to cook, and the basic toppings for many of the noodle bowls include chashu pork, bamboo, wood ear, scallions and marinated boiled egg.
The noodles are shipped in from California weekly but the broths are laboriously prepared in-house, which Wang says is the hallmark of the many ramen houses he visited prior to opening his own.
Wang says he’s eaten at many such restaurants in his frequent travels to Japan and also studied similar eateries throughout the U.S. Ramen houses have become increasingly common around the country in recent years, especially in major metropolitan areas.
Albuquerque has been a little slower to the trend, Wang says, but he thinks the community could be ready to embrace the concept.
“Now with the Food Network and Iron Chef and all those (influences) where people are being more adventurous, I thought it was time for a ramen bar in Albuquerque,” he says.
Wang – a former sushi chef and first-generation American who grew up inside his parents’ various Albuquerque restaurants – developed all of the restaurant’s recipes. In addition to the pork broth, O Ramen also has chicken and vegetable options. Vegan noodles also are available.
The ramen dishes – which feature 32 ounces of broth – run $8-10.
The restaurant’s short menu also includes a handful of appetizers and Japanese curry, which Wang describes as sweeter than the spicy versions usually associated with Indian and Thai food.
While Wang refers to O Ramen as “traditional” in a food sense, he says the 35-seat restaurant itself was designed to reflect the more contemporary ramen houses in Japan and around the world. Dark wood panels line the walls, pop music comes through the speakers and head chef Robert Bush and his staff work in an open kitchen surrounded by a dining counter.
“I’ve had someone tell me it looks like a club,” Wang says.
O Ramen House is located at 2114 Central SE. The phone number is 242-2003. It is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and all through the day on Saturday.
Teaching “golf geeks” in a new venue
GolfTec has moved to Mountain Road.
The golf educational center left Uptown in favor of a larger location, reopening last month at 419 Mountain NW.
Architect Carol Tunell – who owns the franchise with her physician husband Mark Crawford – says the move meant about 30 percent more space and laying roots in “a very up-and-coming part of the city.”
A four-month buildout by AIC General Contractor transformed a former woodworking shop into a state-of-the-art indoor learning center. The 3,100-square-foot space features three different training bays and a long, artificial turf hallway for putting and chipping.
GolfTec, for those who aren’t familiar, caters to what Tunell calls “the golf geek,” no matter their experience level. That can mean a novice seeking intensive instruction or a veteran looking for a custom-club fitting.
Two coaches, PGA pros Matt Love and Kevin Amhaus, offer one-on-one lessons in the facility’s high-tech educational rooms. Students practice hitting balls into a net while strapped into special equipment that helps monitor their movement. Cameras capture and broadcast the swings onto the room’s video and computer screens, and Tunell says the footage is archived into an online system that students can later access from home.
Most clients start off with a 90-minute starter session/evaluation – which runs about $150 – and eventually proceed to lessons. A five-session package starts at $370.
GolfTec’s phone number is 948-5095.
Vegan foods in Barelas
James Whiskeyman had a dilemma: As a longtime resident of the Barelas and Raynolds areas, finding organic produce or other healthy ingredients in a dinner pinch often required driving well outside of his neighborhood.
His solution? Open his own store.
Whiskeyman and Louvenia Magee launched Vital Foods NM, a tiny market at the corner of Coal and 10th SW, late last year. The store stocks fresh produce sourced from both local farms and the San Francisco-based organic produce company Veritable Vegetable.
The inventory also includes items like natural peanut butter, organic soy milk, gluten-free pasta and bread, raw shelled hemp seeds and tempeh. Almost everything on the shelves is vegan-friendly.
Whiskeyman – who has a background in health food and organic produce – started Vital Foods as a wholesaling operation. Whiskeyman had run it as such for about a year when he says he had the “a-ha” moment to add a retail component in his own neighborhood, where the types of food his family eats are harder to find.
He wanted to go small – the store’s selling space is a modest 450 square feet – and to create the kind of atmosphere where he would know customers on a first-name basis and have flexibility. He says the size allows him to work with smaller-scale local farmers.
“I thought if we just had a … little, one-room store but stocked it with organic and healthy and local produce, it seemed like a way to put all of our ideals into something that was manageable,” says Whiskeyman, who continues to run the company’s wholesaling operation.
Vital Foods is open 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, though Whiskeyman says he may soon extend the hours.
It is located at 926 Coal SW. The phone number is 243-3922.
El Sarape rises again
El Sarape restaurant is ready for its second phoenix act.
The Mexican restaurant at 5025 Central NE should be reopen by this week, a full seven months after a small electrical fire in the kitchen forced its temporary closure.
The family-run eatery is not new to disaster. A 2009 fire destroyed a previous location of El Sarape just down the street.
“We’ve been through a lot of bad stuff,” says founder Delia Gallegos, who launched the initial El Sarape in 1988 and has since added a South Valley restaurant.
Gallegos and her son Antonio Ramos – who runs the Central location – say they initially thought the kitchen fire would keep them dark for just a month or two but that the electrical rehab at the space, which they lease, was far more extensive than they originally suspected.
“If we’d have known it would take this long, we’d probably have relocated, but we stuck it out,” Ramos says.
El Sarape serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
And there’s more
For additional retail detail – including the plans for the new Bonefish Grill at Coronado Center or Saffron Tiger’s expansion plans – check out my blog.
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