& Tadanori Akasaka
The owners of the newly opened HiroNori were kind enough to give us a little background, along with their upcoming plans for HiroNori Ramen.
Ramen-yay: Can you tell us a little about your background.
Igarashi: I was a ramen chef in Yokohama, Japan, but I left to come here. From the time I came to the U.S. when I was 18 till now (23), I’ve wanted to open a ramen shop. I started working as a manager at several ramen shops around LA, and I helped open Silverlake Ramen 5-years ago. I recently quit the partnership last year, so I could open HiroNori with my ex-boss “Nori” (Tadanori Akasaka) who I consider a ramen master.
Ramen-yay: Can you also tell us a little about your business partner Tadanori “Nori” Akasaka?
Igarashi: Nori has worked in many places in Japan and Canada over the last 16 years, and he has helped produce over 20 ramen restaurants throughout LA and Canada. Nori had opened all of these restaurants when he was the President at Takara Ramen Inc. which has their U.S. operations in Gardena, CA (with headquarters in Kyoto, Japan).
Ramen-yay: How did you two meet?
Igarashi: Takara Ramen makes many kinds of ramen broths, noodles, and sauces. So a lot of the ramen places in LA buy their products from Takara which is how I know Nori because I worked for him.
We both started this shop with the intention that we would prep everything ourselves.
Ramen-yay: Now that you’re the owners, what are some of the things that you want to do or have planned?
Igarashi: Since we have learned a lot about making ramen from scratch, we both started this shop with the intention that we would prep everything ourselves. Unfortunately, the noodle machine that we purchased from Japan isn’t here yet, but it’s on the way. Eventually, we’ll start to make noodles at the shop, but we’re currently preparing it at another facility.
We are also currently in the works of having our own factory to make the broth, noodles, and sauces which will be ready by the end of this year although we still have more planned such as owning our own farm to raise our own chickens.
Ramen-yay: Thank you for both yours and Nori’san time.
HiroNori is located in the newly opened Trade Food Hall which was formerly the Michelson Marketplace.
“Food halls” seem to be the next big thing because they’re popping up everywhere – you won’t see me having an issue with it since there’s a large centralized bar at Trade Food Hall (not to mention supporting a place not owned by Irvine Company).
Currently the bulk of ramen ya’s for Orange County are located in nearby Costa Mesa, so this location isn’t going to be a stretch for people who like to try out new ramen-ya’s.
Expected a seafood/chicken based stock “shoyu” ramen, but it’s more on par with being a “tonkotsu shoyu” ramen probably with chicken stock to lighten it up. To round it all out, it was topped off with a little daikon radish (kaiware) sprouts.
The egg and broth went perfectly together, but the menma (bamboo shoots) were too sweet. Nothing in the bowl was conducive to having something sweet, and I’d rather have the savory umami from the menma to finish things off (like the ones you’d get at Santouka).
Looks like pork belly chashu in a nice strip like bacon versus rolled up.
There’s been some backlash about the 15% added “service charge,” but without asking them directly, let’s just assume that they did this to be on par with the service in Japan where you do not tip at all (yet service is phenomenal). That could be reaching, and you’re probably thinking “so why didn’t they just put it into the total food cost?” Good idea, but if they had, the initial cost of the tonkotsu ramen would be upwards of $12.10 per bowl or the shoyu ramen for $10.25 which would make them one of the pricier ramen-ya’s in Orange County. That alone could discourage customers from trying them out if they’re attempting to have a competitively priced product on the surface. Unfortunately, their attempt to be transparent with the “service charge” which is added profit is not only common with restaurants (like SF’s Mensho Ramen) and caterer’s, but even with the much-loved car dealership.
Why is there some backlash to a mandatory charge? They, unfortunately, did not manage people’s expectations which is “b*tch, I’m cheap AF, and I don’t have to tip at all.” True dat, but they took that option away from those cheap dirty bastards, frugal diners, or in instances where the service could have been potentially terrible. Anybody who’s seen the politics on the ACA would know people like the illusion that you have the option of paying or not paying.
One other thing, since this is a mandatory service charge, it is subject to taxes although tips are not which means as a diner, you’re paying slightly more (if you want to learn more on this topic, click here on an article by the California Restaurant Association).
The egg is undergoing a constant state of improvement.