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Claremonter brings unique world flavors to Village restaurant

Since its grand opening, Menkoi Ya Ramen has taken Claremont by storm. With each piping-hot bowl served, diners can experience authentic Kitakata ramen. The restaurant’s owner, Jason Chang, has introduced a unique, cultural phenomena to Claremont.

When entering Menkoi Ya Ramen, one is met with cheerful employees, the delicious aroma of home-made broth, and pure delight on customers’ faces as they enjoy their meals. The beautifully painted murals and decor represent the culture behind this popular cuisine.

Mr. Chang had a clear goal in mind when opening the restaurant.

“I have always dreamt of working in Claremont, and having the chance to serve the locals,” he said.

Menkoi Ya Ramen isn’t his first restaurant. He also owns two Poke Dot locations—one in Claremont and a second in Irvine.

Mr. Chang is a Claremonter, who attended Chaparral Elementary School, El Roble Intermediate School, and graduated from Claremont High School in 2008. After graduation, he attended Cal Poly Pomona. He recalls spending a great deal of time hanging around restaurants during his college years and the atmosphere of restaurant-life inspired him to one day run his own.

After college, Mr. Chang and a few colleagues made their way to Kitakata, Japan. There, they indulged in the culture, and mastered the art of Japanese cuisine.

“I have a background in sushi,” Mr. Chang said. However, it is the cuisine of Kitakata, specifically the unique approach to ramen, that holds a special place in his heart.

“People are accustomed to the Tokyo style of ramen,” he explains. “But Kitakata ramen has more water-content in the noodles, creating a chewier texture, rather than a dense texture in Tokyo-style noodles.”

Another aspect that makes Menkoi Ya Ramen unique is their dedication to serving dishes made from scratch.

“We cook everything in the restaurant. Our broth can take a minimum of 14 hours to boil in order to attain the umami flavor,” he said.

The hearty broth—stewed with a variety of pork bones—is just one of the many components cooked fresh in the restaurant. They also serve freshly-made vegetables, noodles and chashu, a Japanese braised pork belly slow-cooked in a sweet and salty marinade.

The most popular dishes at Menkoi Ya Ramen are the signature Menkoi ramen and the tonkotsu kotteri ramen, a dish that includes toro chashu (braised pork), black garlic oil, green onion, dried seaweed and bamboo shoot. 

Mr. Chang says the restaurant is currently working on adding more vegetarian and vegan options but for the time being the only option is the vegetarian miso ramen, which consists of noodles served in a miso broth with cabbage, spinach, corn, green onion, bamboo shoot, bean sprout, red onion and garlic.

Menkoi Ya Ramen is also working on obtaining its liquor license, and aims to offer a happy hour in the next few months. Food is also available for takeout.

Menkoi Ya Ramen is a unique addition to the thriving Claremont Village, with the authentic Kitakata ramen bringing a new cultural element downtown.

“I hope that every experience is a great one,” Mr. Chang said. “I hope that citizens find comfort here. We take pride in the food and the service, and we hope people enjoy every last bit of it.”

Menkoi Ya Ramen is located at 333 W. Bonita Ave., in the Claremont Village. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.

For more information, call (909) 445-0707 or visit menkoiyaramen.com to see the menu.

—Chloe Selznick