Ramen fans rejoice — Kyuramen is making its way to Oak Park with a robust menu of miso, shoyu and tonkatsu ramen offerings. Kyuramen is expected to open in the former home of La Notte, 118 N. Marion St., by Aug. 1.
The global franchise has more than 120 locations worldwide with more than 100 locations in Japan and six New York City shops. And now, Hui Zhu and Han Wang are bringing the Kyuramen experience to Illinois for the first time and landing their noodle shop squarely in the heart of downtown Oak Park.
“I love Oak Park,” said Zhu. “It has a very concentrated business area, good design, and good walkability.”
Zhu and Wang considered several communities before deciding Oak Park should be home to Kyuramen. Zhu appreciated the openness to cultural diversity in Oak Park and believes the base population in the area has an appreciation for Asian flavors generally and ramen specifically. They were also attracted to recent development in Oak Park. The arrival of luxury apartments in the area gave the business owners added confidence there would be an adequate customer base for Kyuramen’s Japanese offerings.
A friend of Zhu’s traveled to Taiwan and experienced Kyuramen first-hand and went on to learn ramen techniques from a Kyuramen master piquing Zhu’s interest in the franchise opportunity and inspiring him to visit New York locations. Though they have some restaurant experience, this is the pair’s first foray into Japanese cuisine and upscale dining.
David King and Associates executed a long-term lease for the Kyuramen franchise and since signing Zhu and Wang have applied for village permits to remodel the property. Zhu expects the renovations to take between three and four months. Ramen lovers should expect the space to embrace a streamlined Japanese aesthetic with bamboo accents and private dining areas. Zhu makes it clear the Kyuramen experience is about more than great food — it is about being part of an environment.
“People come rushing to this environment to take pictures,” said Zhu. “Bloggers, Instagrammers like to come here for the environment and the food.”
Indecisive food lovers will enjoy Kyuramen’s signature ramen bowl. The serving vessel is divided into two separate compartments allowing diners to enjoy two distinct ramen offerings. In addition to serving broth and noodles crowned with tender pork chashu and a seven-minute egg, Kyuramen will offer a thoughtful assortment of appetizers including steamed pork buns, purple sweet potato fries and heavily garnished pan-fried pancakes known as Okonomiyaki.
A thoughtful bar program, rotating menu specials (think “soft shell crab rice burgers”) and a small selection of rice dishes will round out the menu. Desserts including cherry blossom jelly and layered Japanese crepe cakes in matcha, mango and purple sweet potato flavors will put a sweet finish on any Kyuramen meal.
New York locations are highly rated. Patient Oak Park residents should look forward to ramen worth lining up for later this year.