Detroit is about to start slurping a whole lot more noodles with the opening of Los Angeles restaurant import Urban Ramen. The long-anticipated noodle bar debuted its second location in the United States along Woodward Avenue in Midtown on Tuesday night. The 22-seat restaurant may be small, but it seems primed to become a hit with the neighborhood if not for its richly flavored broths, than for its fresh noodles made in-house.
The shop, which is located in the former Falafill space near Rock City Eatery, features a glassed-in noodle-making room directly next to the sidewalk, so people strolling by can catch a glimpse of the process. Co-owner Kohei Roberts tells Eater he was determined to bring a noodle machine into the Detroit outpost after traveling to Japan and learning about the process and tradition of making fresh noodles. “When I came back, I wanted to make fresh noodles every day,” he says.
Kohei Robert and chef/partner Yohei Uchida opened their original ramen shop in Hollywood in 2014 and waited three years to expand their business into another location. While expanding to Detroit from LA might seem unusual for a restaurant with only one location, the decision to move into Midtown happened organically. Kohei says he had a friend in Detroit who he visited a few times and grew to like the city. “He (the friend) told me that there’s only a few ramen shops around here,” Kohei recalls, so he decided to scout locations in the area. He chose Midtown after noticing the new developments happening in the corridor. “Ramen is good for students, too, so I wanted to open near the university,” he says. As for whether it will be challenging to maintain both locations from such great distances, Kohei says he’s optimistic that between himself, Yohei, and Urban Ramen’s local manager they’ll manage.
Urban Ramen’s owners were strategic in the way they filled the space. The restaurant features several two top tables lined against a wall with a banquette and a single, six-seat table for larger groups. Metal chairs have been modified with wood seats. The dining room features a large mural created by local graffiti artist Sintex of a Detroit hat-wearing Buddha tucking in to a bowl of noodles.
The restaurant team uses a large pressure cooker to speed up the process of making its tori paitan (chicken), tonkotsu (pork), and shoyu (vegan maitake mushroom) broth. This means Urban Ramen can finish stewing its broths in 5 hours instead of the regular 16 hours.The restaurant also offers options like Hawaiian poke and Japanese fried chicken, as well as a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Customers place their orders as they walk in and then grab a seat in the dining room.
Urban Ramen is currently open for dinner only as it enters its first week of business and customers are invited to RSVP online during the first few days. The restaurant will host its official grand opening on July 2 and will expand into regular lunch and dinner hours at that point. Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard visited Urban Ramen on opening night. Take a tour of Detroit’s new ramen destination below.
Urban Ramen is located at 4206 Woodward Ave.; open dinner-only until July 2 (RSVP for a seat); open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a break from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. between lunch and dinner service.
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