For all of Keizo Shimamoto’s obsessive devotion to ramen craft, he’s probably best known as the guy behind last year’s food-bazaar sensation, the ramen burger. At Ramen.Co, his new place in the Financial District, he’s poised to change perceptions. Shimamoto, a Japanese-American who honed his skills at Bassanova Ramen in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward, hit the road to develop the recipes for his opening menu.
It offers three different slow-brewed tonkotsu pork broths: a shoyu-flavored version inspired by Wakayama in southern Honshu, a salt-flavored version from Hakata in Kyushu, and the Brooklyn Blend, whose base is a mix of salt and shoyu soups with a potent shot of garlic oil. All come with chicken, beef, egg, or meltingly tender pork belly.
Naturally, the ramen burger—shoyu-seasoned meat between fried-noodle “buns”—resurfaces here, in its original recipe with Angus patty, arugula, and scallions as well as new variations with chicken or shredded beef. Bento lunches of meatballs, beef curry, ginger pork, fried chicken kara-age, and tofu “steak” round out the brief menu. Since its soft opening early this month, Ramen.Co’s been cooking for only a few hours each weekday as Shimamoto refines his food and gets his staff up to speed. But the Wall Street lunch crowd’s already packing the place, and the official opening’s coming any day now.
However Ramen.Co ultimately fares in an increasingly competitive ramen scene, its opening says something about Shimamoto’s resilience. Last summer he was preparing to launch Bassanova Ramen’s first New York shop—until suddenly, mysteriously, he wasn’t. The new Bassanova moved on, using recipes he’d mastered in Tokyo (including a Thai-inspired green curry ramen that’s now killing it on both sides of the Pacific). And so did Shimamoto, who had little to say about that apparently aborted partnership beyond advising his blog readers, “Never let anyone take advantage of you, your name, or your passion!” Revenge—if it’s even a small part of the story behind Ramen.Co—might be a dish best served steaming hot.
Photo of Ramen.Co's Brooklyn Blend ramen by Mark Hokoda