Petworth ramen shop Menya Hosaki hopes to open Aug. 18 with a mix of classic bowls like tonkotsu as well as some surprises like truffle shoyu and vegan tantanmen. Chef and owner Eric Yoo makes everything in house, even the noodles. When the doors to his first restaurant finally open next month, it will mark the culmination of Yoo’s all-consuming study of one of Japan’s favorite foods.
Yoo grew up in South Korea, where, as a kid, he was so enamored with noodles his mother would yell at him for only consuming empty carbs. When his family moved to Baltimore he helped his parents run carry-out restaurants, which furthered his interest in cooking. Soon he was spending “thousands of dollars” on pork and chicken bones at the grocery store to see if he could get close to cooking the ramen he enjoyed in restaurants at home.
“My wife yelled at me,” Yoo jokes. “She was really against it and said, ‘This better not turn into a career!’ I have this obsessive personality … I have to learn everything from beginning to end.”
It didn’t turn into a job at first. Over the past few years Yoo has worked as a consultant, mostly in Arlington. But he continued researching ramen on the side, sometimes on Reddit channels. “It got to the point where I traveled to Japan to eat my first authentic ramen,” he says. That was a turning point. “It opened my eyes. This is what I want to do. I have a stable job, but I want to be making ramen and make people happy.”
His next step was to take a one-month leave of absence from work to train under Keizo Shimamoto, the chef and owner of Ramen Shack in New York City, which closed in March 2019. Serious Eats called it “the most exciting ramen restaurant in the country.” Yoo was nervous, but he approached Shimamoto on Instagram and secured the opportunity. After the intense month of training, Yoo says he returned to Ramen Shack many times for short bursts of additional training.
After that, Yoo was ready to test out his newfound techniques and quit his day job in May 2019 shortly after he signed a lease. His father has a deli in Annapolis Junction, Maryland that closes at 3 p.m. Yoo affixed some curtains, posters, and other decor and turned it into a long-term evening ramen pop-up that launched in July 2019. Yoo fine-tuned his recipes as he geared up for opening his permanent restaurant in Petworth, located at 845 Upshur St. NW.
Menya Hosaki’s tentative hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. There are 25 seats inside, including some counter seating that looks into an open kitchen. An additional 16 seats are available outside. Yoo wasn’t planning to do take-out and delivery at first, but says COVID-19 has necessitated it. He’s come up with a plan to make ramen travel well to preserve its quality.
Menu highlights include two flavors of tsukemen or “dipping ramen.” When the dish arrives the noodles and a thick broth are served separately. To eat tsukemen, you drag the noodles through the savory soup before bringing chopsticks to your mouth.
While Menya Hosaki serves ramen with rich creamy tonkotsu broth because many customers will likely crave it, he has a soft spot for Japan’s more delicate ramen varieties like chintan shoyu ramen. Try it plain or drizzled with truffle oil.
There’s also tantanmen—Japan’s answer to Sichuan dan dan noodles. Noodles are swirled with chili oil, and sesame paste. At Menya Hosaki, there’s a version with pork and a vegan version that uses an almond milk based broth and sautéed mushrooms.
See the full sample menu below.
Menya Hosaki, 845 Upshur St. NW; instagram.com/menyahosaki