In 2004, four years after Oshima Ramen, a Japanese noodle shop, opened on Hampden, then-Westword restaurant critic Jason Sheehan made us all aware of how lucky we were to have Oshima -- part of a chain of ramen noodle shops that started in Japan -- in a city that was still enamored with the french fries at McDonald's. "We're very lucky," he wrote. "As a matter of fact, we're the luckiest people in the whole USA, because this small, unprepossessing and virtually invisible spot squashed into Tiffany Plaza is the only Oshima Ramen in America."
Sheehan, who's now writing about food for Philadelphia magazine, would, if he were still here, be drowning his sorrows in a cheap bottle of whiskey, because Oshima Ramen, where Sheehan claims to have found "religion in the chaisu ramen," has dried up.
See also: Finding My Religion
"I've cooked here for fourteen years, and I've never taken a vacation," sighs owner-chef Noboru Muraishi. "I work 95 hours a week, and I do all the shopping, cleaning, cooking; I need to to take a rest."
And yet, because of his lease terms, he's required to have a physical presence at the joint, which is completely bereft of a kitchen or furniture. "Oshima Ramen is gone, but I'm still here because I have to be. My lease doesn't run out until the end of April, and the landlord tells me I have to be here until the last day of April," explains Muraishi, adding that when that time comes, he "plans to sleep all day long," join a health club, split his time between Denver and Las Vegas, and, most important, he says, publish his collection of whimsical children's books, of which he has five, all of them written and illustrated by him.
The space, now little more than a shell with a ripped up floor, is in the "cleaning stages," and while Muraishi reveals that there has been interest from other parties in turning the space into another restaurant, he says that those who have looked at the plot have, for one reason or another, walked away. "I don't know what's going to happen here, but I know that I'm done, and while I'll miss cooking and my customers, some of whom have been regulars for years, it's time for me to do something different. It's time for me to step away from this before my time runs out."
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I'm sure I speak for many when I say doumo arigatou gozaimasu, Mr. Muraishi.