Ramen business is a serious business
OPENED in MOSCOW in 2019, “RA’MEN”
is not only an embodiment of a growing popularity of Ramen in Russia, but also of an emerging realization among aspiring noodle business entrepreneurs that, with the market becoming more and more saturated and difficult to enter, thorough preparation and education before opening a Ramen shop are absolutely imperative to ensure the success of their business.
Yes, the demand – and so the opportunity – are there, but consumers’ palates and stomachs – being constantly educated by existing local Ramen restaurants and what they can experience abroad – are getting more sophisticated and demanding leaving no place for bland soups, soggy noodles and poor customer service. And Russian capital is definitely not an exception in this respect, with people from New York to Sydney, from Seoul to Johannesburg, and all over the world becoming less forbearing to Ramen of sub-par quality.
Successful Ramen shop: when learning from professionals is the key
Despite already having significant experience in Japanese cuisine by the time they conceived of the idea to open their own Ramen shop, founders of RA’MEN took the issue seriously, and right off the bat started looking for any information and knowledge on Ramen they could find – this, RA’MEN’s chef Evgeny Trofimov says, was how the team came across Yamato’s website. Learning from established professionals in the field of both Ramen cooking and Ramen noodle making seemed like the most obvious route to follow.
Evgeny, a seasoned food business and culinary professional in his own right, came to Yamato Ramen School in Kagawa already equipped with a certain amount of knowledge about Ramen, but, by his own admission, studying at the School became a true eye opener and a formative experience of immense significance for him as a Ramen chef.
“Tonkotsu”, “Shio”, “Shoyu”, “Kansui”, “Motodare”, “Paitan”, etc. – for an uninitiated Ramen world is a panoply of exotic terms, making sense of which is not an easy task even with information available on the Internet and in cooking books.
“In hindsight, a decision to attend the School was one of the major and crucial contributors to the current success of our restaurant. I wasn’t a complete novice, and I tried to educate myself on Ramen even before coming to Japan. But thanks to Yamato and its instructors not only was I able to put all the info I had before into a coherent and clear picture, but to tremendously expand my expertise in Ramen cuisine as well as repertoire of ideas and techniques I now use in my everyday work. I can definitely say that if I didn’t attend the School I would have no chance to learn all the small and intricate but yet so important and essential details of Ramen I rely so heavily on now. There is no room for artificial stuff like MSG in Yamato’s pantry, but when you try the taste they conjure just from basic ingredients, it’s like “Yeah, that’s it. That’s the thing!”…
…Moreover, Yamato School is not only about soups. Before my coming to Japan, at the early stages of our quest to open a Ramen shop we didn’t think too much about the noodles part. At the School I was able to learn and experience that a really tasty Ramen can never be created just from soup alone no matter how delicious it may be – without good noodles there is no right balance between hardness/chewiness and taste/flavor a really good Ramen from the best masters has. It sounds like an obvious thing to say but Ramen IS a combination of noodles and soup – being able to learn that too was yet another important result of my studying in Kagawa. And the last point to add – to boost my professional credentials and self-confidence alike I also took the effort to pass the “Ramen Sommelier” certification – as far as I know, I became the first one of a kind from Russia.”
Evgeny’s experience with Yamato Ramen noodle machines, and the quality of noodles they make, led him to propose buying one for their future Ramen shop. As it was only for one location, the choice was between different all-in-one models – the time-tested “Richmen Type 1” legacy model, and the 2019 “Richmen Gold” with significantly more automation, improved ergonomics, and higher output. Without much hesitation the team and its management – connoisseurs of everything new and cutting-edge themselves – opted for the latter.
“Looking back on it now, the machine, although it required some investment to purchase and time deliver to Russia, gave us a number of advantages we could not have achieved our current success without. Namely, the ability to produce our own craft noodles, to maintain and be fully sure of the noodles’ quality, an opportunity to save on noodle costs on the one hand and an ability to serve our customers high quality product on the other. You can compare noodles in a Ramen dish to the air we breathe most of the time even without realizing we are doing it: when you eat Ramen, sometimes the only taste and flavor you’d feel would be that of soup without much gustatory perception coming from noodles, but should those noodles be of inferior texture and taste, it would absolutely ruin the general sensation you get from eating the whole thing. Good Ramen is impossible without good noodles. Having our own machine and being able to produce basically any kind of Ramen noodles for an unlimited variety of Ramen dishes greatly empowers our restaurant to experiment with and develop new menus.”