Ramen aficionados are likely already familiar with tsukemen, the ramen dish in which noodles are served alongside rich broth for dipping. That dish originated at the legendary ramen restaurant Taishoken in 1951 in Nakano; there are now over one hundred locations in Japan.
Now a location of the groundbreaking restaurant will open in San Mateo in late May, opened by a scion of the family ramen business. CEO Yoshihiro Sakagachi, grandson of co-founder Masayasu Sakaguchi and relative of Kazuo Yamagishi (widely credited with creating tsukemen), is bringing the style of ramen his family invented to the former space of Kisaku, another Japanese restaurant (47 E 4th Avenue). It’ll serve the tsukemen, of course, along with traditional ramen, small plates, and desserts.
Growing up, Sakaguchi watched his father, Mitsuo Sakaguchi, and grandfather, Masayasu Sakaguchi, making ramen at their Nakano restaurant. After college and time spent backpacking and traveling, Sakaguchi became interested in the restaurant business, working at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo before joining as a ramen chef at Mensho Tokyo, another highly acclaimed Tokyo-based ramen shop that opened in San Francisco in 2015. “Since I was interested in going abroad, Mensho was a great opportunity to learn what a Japanese restaurant is in America,” Sakaguchi told Eater through a translator. “It was a natural path to open Taishoken in the US.”
The menu will include local ingredients, and cater more to the taste of Americans, says Sakaguchi. The original broth is lighter and clearer, and a little vinegary; here it will be a bit richer, more in the style of tonkotsu.
“We like the atmosphere of San Mateo, the abundance of Japanese culture and restaurant in the area,” says Sakaguchi. “And I really liked the open kitchen layout and plenty of storage spaces this property had.”
Unlike Taishoken’s original counter service, Sakaguchi is planning a full-service restaurant, more in line with the American market. Though the format will be more casual at lunch, the chef plans to employ a more fine dining style at dinner, with small dishes, appetizers, and ramen paired with sake and wine.
While this is the first of the official Taishoken restaurants to open in California, Sakaguchi says there are plans for more. Stay tuned for more on Taishoken’s San Mateo outpost closer to opening.