Takashi Tamai has been working on his ramen recipes for years, but when he decided to open his own restaurant, he knew that learning from the best was the only way to get every detail right. So he spent a year apprenticing in the ramen-yas of Tokyo to master his broths, noodles and toppings. The result can now be tasted at Ramen Star, which opened on Friday, April 12, at 4044 Tejon Street in Sunnyside.
Tamai offers five styles of ramen on his restaurant's brief menu: miso, spicy miso, vegetable, spicy vegetable, and the signature Ramen Star umami broth. Several of the toppings are either the chef's creations or are items seldom seen outside Japan, including fried vegetable chips (which will change seasonally; right now they're parsnip), shishito peppers, fermented bamboo shoots and even a potato pierogi (with the vegetable ramen).
In addition to rich, silky broths, the chef makes noodles from scratch daily. Customers can see the Japanese noodle machine on display behind a window in the dining room — proof that Tamai takes ramen seriously. He also hired Boulder artist Kazu Oba (known for setting up sidewalk "guerrilla pot throwing" demonstrations) to make the restaurant's ramen bowls and other service ware, and craftsman Takayuki Kida to build all the tables. The restaurant's spartan decor draws attention to these details; the only art on the walls is a depiction of Fujin (the god of wind) and Raijin (the god of thunder and lightning) above the kitchen.
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Tamai encourages guests to slurp their noodles, not just as a compliment to the chef, but to open up the flavors of the ramen and cool the broth a little. Before you slurp, though, sample shareable plates of takoyaki (spherical octopus fritters), edamame, kara-age (fried chicken) or geso-age (fried squid tentacles). Two salads are also available: a house garden salad and a seaweed salad with seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Ramen Star is in soft-opening mode and is awaiting final sign-off on its liquor license, so only non-alcoholic beverages are being poured at the moment. The restaurant is open for dinner every weekday but Tuesday, and for lunch and dinner on the weekend. See the restaurant's website or call 303-455-3787 for additional details.