The Ramen Shop is a pop-up ramen shop. It’s been “popping up” all over Central Wellington since May 2013. The Ramen Shop can be found in its permanent home in inner city foodie suburb, Newtown and will be opening soon.
The Pop Up
The brainchild of Asher Boote and Tsubasa Takahashi, The Ramen Shop popped up for business in May 2013. It is, according to Asher, “A ramen joint with a kiwi twist…”.
Asher has worked as a chef and as a consultant opening new eateries in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Sweden. Tsubasa trained in Japan and has been in New Zealand for 11 years, part of that as head chef in the now defunct Sakura Restaurant.
It was while working in Europe that Asher was influenced by the relaxed nature of the Michelin starred fine dining restaurant Noma. Asher was also inspired by the way David Chang (of Momofuku fame) took street food and formalised it.
It was during this time that an idea formed – to serve ramen (essentially a street food in Japan) at a restaurant level. Cooked using modern cooking techniques and executed at a high end level.
Asher came back to New Zealand in 2012 and was hired as Executive Chef to open Pickle Eating House and Bar it was here that he hired Tsubasa as a chef.
Having a chat with Tsubasa one day, asking what he knew about ramen, Tsubasa revealed that it was his dream to open a ramen shop. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The first Ramen Shop pop-up was on 6 May 2013.
Asher and Tsubasa decided to sell ramen on their off days, using just the area in and around Pickle’s kitchen and pass. This was done on purpose for 3 reasons: to evoke the feel of small noodle bars in alleyways in Japan – small, intimate and fast-paced), but yet being in a restaurant atmosphere, and creating demand due to the limited number of seats.
Pickle was shut in 2013 due to earthquake strengthening of the building it was in. And that forced the boys to think about how they could carry on the ramen pop-up.
Asher and Tsubabsa wanted to work with modern thinking businesses that were young and quality-driven; to develop a symbiotic relationship that would benefit everyone involved. This is when collaborating with bars and cafes around town began.
The Ramen Shop’s first pop-up collaboration after Pickle shut was in Goldings Free Dive Bar on 5 August 2013. Since then the Ramen Shop has been regularly popping-up in various spots like Hashigo Zake, Flight Coffee Hangar, Rogue & Vagabond and Sundays at the City Market. More recently, they’ve been popping up at Six Barrel Soda, VicBooks Café at Victoria University and even managing a ramen workshop with Wellington Foodies.
Asher strongly believes in collaborations to achieve creative goals. The popularity of these regular pop ups all over town is testament to that belief.
Social responsibility is a big part of the way Asher and Tsubasa operate. Being community-focused is very much part of the fabric of the Ramen Shop. They firmly believe that giving back is part of the modern circle of life. This means among other things, aligning with local charities and non-profit organisations.
The opening of The Ramen Shop Restaurant in April is in no way the demise of the pop-ups, but rather a natural continuation and growth of the business. The boys will continue their regular pop ups as it is the soul of their business.
The restaurant will be in Newtown, viewed by many as the new foodie central in Wellington.
It will be essentially, a Kiwi restaurant serving ramen. “We’re not selling ourselves as authentic”, Asher explains. “We’re not serving tradition but we have respect for tradition. Ramen isn’t part of that rarefied Japanese cuisine. It’s an everyday food found in a country where people may be sticklers for tradition but are crazy about trends. And depending on where ramen is served, it differs from region to city, to town, to home.”
The menu has been written based on what both Asher and Tsubasa would want to eat. It will be constantly evolving – the menu will feature the pop-up favourites but changes made to reflect seasonal availability. It will be a quality focused small menu.
Asher and Tsubasa want the menu to be accessible; not a “cheap n’cheerful” but pocket friendly quality food.
The look and feel of the restaurant will be Japanese-Scandinavian and Kiwi DIY. Think recycled and upcycled furnishings, natural woods and soft lighting. A communal table will seat 18, plus few smaller tables of two. A local artist has been commissioned to produce a large mural for the restaurant.
The Ramen Shop will create a casual vibe which will fit into the Newtown scene, while serving up affordable quality food.
The Ramen Shop already has an active social media presence, but will add a blog on their website which will be launched at the same time as the restaurant. It will be a vehicle for the team at the Ramen Shop to continuously communicate to their customers, from behind the scenes.