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Santouka Ramen CEO on Expanding to Boston

Photo: Shinichi Kikuta/Gabe Bellegard Bastos

For the last few days, Santouka Ramen has brought its shio broth to Newbury Street. This brief stint is a partnership with Itadaki, with whom they have a personal relationship, and it's their first foray into the Boston market, where the company hopes eventually to open a franchise. With 52 locations worldwide, the Japan-based company first started serving the salt-based broth in Asahikawa, Hokkaido to only nine guests at a time. With the help of their real estate brokers, Nao White and Misato Pelissier, translating, Eater Boston chatted with Shinichi Kikuta, Santouka's CEO, in his first visit looking for the ideal property.

Most Santouka franchises are inside Japanese grocery stores and food courts. This includes the Costa Mesa, California location, their first in the US, and one in New Jersey, currently the closest to Boston. Lately, the company has begun experimenting with standalone locations, including one recently opened in Toronto. Kikuta did not want to reveal specifics about where the Boston franchise could be located, but the move to Boston seems to be motivated by the city's large student population.

"Boston is not a very big city," he said. "It is full of smart students, and when they graduate, they move out to other cities. So if they remember Santouka Ramen, they can serve as brand ambassadors." Because he sees students as likely customers, he was surprised to see ramen prices in the area around $15. "It should be a cheap comfort food for you to have with a beer after a long day."

Kikuta is particularly proud of his company's shio broth, not only because it was the first variety they offered, but because he strongly believes that the simplicity of the broth allows flavors to shine through. "There's nothing for you to hide behind. If one of your flavors is off, people notice it." He got up to check on the broth several times, making sure the thin Hokkaido-style noodles were not overcooked, and he personally adjusted the company's signature plum atop one of the bowls, insisting it must be perfectly centered. Even though most of the ingredients came from their New Jersey franchise, Kikuta claims it tasted exactly like it would in Japan.
— Gabe Bellegard Bastos
· All coverage of Santouka Ramen on Eater [~EBOS~]