Eric Yoo knew a career change might be in his future when he started spending workdays at his financial consulting job worrying about stockpots. “I would just have a broth boiling at home overnight for like 24, 48 hours going,” says Yoo, who recently opened the Menya Hosaki ramen shop in Petworth. “During work, I would just be anxious about it.”
Yoo had been obsessing over ramen for years. A memorable bowl he tried in college led him to seek out the Japanese dish at restaurants and eventually teach himself how to fine-tune it at home. In September, Yoo officially made the jump from noodle-obsessed home cook to restaurateur, opening Menya Hosaki at 845 Upshur Street NW.
Early versions of the menu include bowls of creamy pork broth in a spicy tonkotsu, classic shoyu with a clear chicken chintan broth, and a vegan ramen fortified with almond milk.
“Everything in the bowl is from scratch,” Yoo says. “I take really big pride in making my own noodles. That’s just a very rare thing in the States.”
Yoo wants to focus on styles that might not be served often in Washington, including a brothless, Taiwanese-style ramen called mazesoba — “It’s kind of like a ramen pasta,” he says — and tsukemen, a dipping ramen where the noodle and the soup are separated. “The soup is concentrated, so that the noodles you are dipping into the sauce, and you’re eating it like that,” he says.
Yoo says he learned how to make noodles, broth, and everything else from his mentor, Keizo Shimamoto, who introduced a popular ramen burger with Ramen Shack in New York City.
“When I ate at his shop, I was like, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do,’” Yoo says. “I tasted it and it was so beautiful. It was probably the only shop where I was like, ‘I really love every component of this bowl.’ It was the only shop where if I had to quit my job, I wanted to learn from there.”
Yoo says Shimamoto’s ramen pushed him to stop thinking about ramen as a hobby and inspired him to open his own shop. A conversation on Instagram turned into an internship of sorts, with Yoo taking a month-long leave of absence from his consulting job to learn from Shimamoto. Yoo started working in stints on weekends and used up paid time off to study in Shimamoto’s kitchen.
Menya Hosaki’s “Triple Threat” ramen is an homage to Shimamoto’s influence, combining pork, chicken, and smoked fish broth into one bowl. “It’s a flavor profile that a lot of D.C. people wouldn’t have before — like a smoky fish flavor that mixes with both the creamy and the clear broth,” Yoo says.
Yoo also honed his skills through a year-long ramen pop-up he started after quitting his consulting job. He ran it after hours out of his father’s deli in a small office building outside of Laurel, Maryland.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere. Just a bunch of warehouses around there,” Yoo says. “Literally, you would look at the location and be like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ You’re going to do a ramen shop here?’”
On the evenings and on weekends, Yoo would spend an hour and half each day converting the deli into a ramen shop. To his surprise, customers found him.
“I got so much following there, to a point where on Saturdays, people would have to wait in line just to sit,” he says.
The pop-up closed in August so he could open Menya Hosaki. Now he’s cooking in a kitchen made to his specifications and has a bright dining room outfitted with wood and white paint.
Yoo never envisioned serving takeout ramen, but due to the pandemic, he’s offering up noodles, toppings, and broth packaged separately for home assembly. The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Friday with lunch and dinner available Saturdays. There are about 15 seats on the patio and a dozen more inside in the current setup. Instead of reservations, Menya Hosaki asks that diners join a waitlist through Yelp or check in on-site with a host.
“My theme of ramen is I try to be as honest as I can to the dish, because when it comes to food, there’s a lot of cutting corners, or using not-so-great ingredients or using premade stuff,” Yoo says. “For me, I want to serve a bowl where I can say that this is my dish.”
- Menya Hosaki [Official Site]
- Menya Hosaki [Instagram]
- Menya Hosaki is the passionate exploration of Eric Yoo’s love for ramen, family and community [Petworth News]