Moe Kuroki’s love for ramen runs deep. Born in Fukuoka, Japan, Kuroki came to the U.S. nearly 19 years ago to study metalsmithing at MassArt before turning her attention to cooking authentic Japanese ramen as a way to keep a connection to home. And now with a brick-and-mortar location for Oisa Ramen set to open in January, Kuroki has finally found somewhere to put down roots.
“I think of this place as home—home for Oisa and home for me,” she says of the downtown Boston spot in part of the space formerly occupied by the Place—the rest of the old nightclub will be occupied by Christopher Straub’s Tiki Rock Bar. “Ramen is a childhood food that brings me back to Japan. It’s nice to create Oisa in Boston and have my second home.”
Beginning in 2015, Kuroki held a string of successful ramen pop-ups at local establishments—including La Brasa, Snappy Ramen and Brassica Kitchen—garnering a loyal fan base despite no formal training. She began with a focus on tonkotsu ramen, a rich, meat-based broth popular in her hometown, but she recently made the decision to switch Oisa Ramen’s main stock to a vegetarian one to add more variety to the menu. Kuroki describes the complex nature of learning to make traditional Japanese ramen as “a mysterious secret that feels like chasing some crazy unicorn.”
Oisa will offer seven in-house ramen dishes that guests can enjoy for lunch on weekdays. That menu includes two tonkotsu (pork bone) and tsukekemen (dipping style) options as well as three shoyu (soy vegetable) ramens, such as the smokey shoyu ramen, made with burnt shallot oil, tomato noodles, bok choy, mushrooms and scallions. Guests have the option to enhance any dish with add-ons like pork belly or soy egg, and they can wash it all down with one of a few beers available. Kuroki will also offer three takeout rice bowls: gyu (beef), poke (marinated fish) and soboro (vegetarian) donburi.
The intimate space houses a seating area for five and a standing counter that accommodates up to eight guests, and Kuroki hopes the cozy, no-fuss atmosphere will encourage plenty of diners to “own their slurp.”
“It’s a gift for me to have someone come in and have this opportunity to share a little bit of my childhood with them,” Kuroki says. “I really do feel like when people come in they are coming into my home and into open arms.”
Oisa Ramen 2 Broad St., Boston oisaramen.com