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G Force

Using his noodle to go home

(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / January 19, 2011

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Q. Woe is us! Where are Bostonians going to eat ramen now?

A. There are some other ramen restaurants in Boston, like Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square in Cambridge. I used to work in a Japanese grocery in Porter Square, and I would always go to the ramen restaurant to eat my lunch. They were doing a pretty good business. That’s why I figured I could do the same thing.

Q. What made your ramen so good?

A. The soup. It’s based on chicken bone and pork bone. The soup base is the most important thing. It cooks for about six to seven hours. Noodles are very important, too. We were the only restaurant in the US to use a special noodle imported from Japan. I was also using another really good one from Los Angeles, but the imported one is very, very good.

Q. I also think customers enjoyed watching you make the ramen in the open kitchen. Maybe it reminded them of “Tampopo.’’ Does that movie accurately reflect the ramen-making lifestyle?

A. I like it, but not because it’s about ramen. I like it as a movie. It is realistic. Most of the things are true.

Q. What place does ramen occupy in Japanese culture?

A. Ramen is like pizza or hamburgers in this country. When people don’t know what to eat, they go to a ramen restaurant.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. I am going back to my hometown. I lived there until I was 20 years old, and then I came here. Somehow I decided to stay.

Q. Why are you returning to Japan?

A. A couple of reasons. One is my parents. They are older, but they are still fine. I want to be with them. Second, for me to challenge the majors. Just like Ichiro and Daisuke. I will open a restaurant in Tokyo. For me it’s a challenge. I like eating ramen a lot when I go home — I’m always looking for which one is good, and I try many places. So I figured out my ramen is maybe good enough to compare with them.

Q. What will your restaurant be like?

A. I would like to make my restaurant “Boston taste,’’ which you can’t find anywhere in Japan.

Q. Boston taste? Will you put Fenway franks in it, or maybe lobster for an upscale version?

A. The ramen will be Japanese, but I’m thinking about the interior. It will have brick walls, and I’m collecting New England pictures and Red Sox things and Patriots things. I will display them inside my restaurant.

Q. That will make homesick Boston expats incredibly happy. Although ramen hasn’t quite caught on in Boston the way it has in, say, New York. For instance, at Ippudo, a branch of a Japanese chain there, customers often wait an hour or more to get seated. Will the Japanese noodle bar ever take off here?

A. Ippudo is amazing. I thought they would be successful, but not that much! One reason has to be there are more Japanese people in New York, more tourists and more businessmen. But ramen is getting popular among the American people. It will take a little time. Sushi is so popular, but the first sushi was something no one had before. Now it’s ramen’s turn.

Q. So perhaps you’ll come back to town someday and open another ramen restaurant?

A. I’m keeping my green card.

Interview was edited and condensed. Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com.

WHO
Ken Kojima
WHAT
The man behind Ken’s Noodle House, which closed Sunday after five years’ serving Boston’s best bowl of the Japanese noodle soup ramen.