Inside Ramen Lab’s New Business Incubator
Most of New York’s top ramen shops source directly from Sun Noodle, which crafts alternately delicate or sturdy, straight or curly, silky or springy pastas precisely to their customers specifications. But Sun Noodle is so much more than a wholesaler, previously operating a test kitchen and tasting room (meant to educate the public to the intricacies and nuances of ramen) out of their New Jersey factory, and eventually spinning Ramen Lab into an actual sit-down eatery in Manhattan last winter.
But instead of simply running a standard noodle-slurping counter, Sun recently decided to use the Nolita space as a small business incubator as well. They’ve invited ramen chefs and fledgling restaurants from across the U.S. and Japan to take over the tiny kitchen for three weeks at a time, in order to refine their concepts, tweak their broths, work out service kinks, and receive real time customer feedback.
First on deck is Ichicoro Ramen, which plans to open a permanent outpost in Florida later this summer. Their tenure kicked off last week, with the Tampa-based team offering an abbreviated menu of noodles to 10 lucky diners at a time (as with the original Ramen Lab, there are no reservations). From 5-10pm, Tuesday through Saturday, patrons will have the opportunity to test-drive three, Sunshine State-inspired bowls, including “Champon” — which uses seafood instead of pork to flavor a creamy tonokotsu broth, thick with head-on gulf shrimp and hunks of chasyu asado — a surprisingly full-bodied “Vegetable” offering (heady with salty miso and sweet tomato, fleshed out with grilled seasonal vegetables and spiked with funky sake kasu (the solids left over from sake production), and the brothless “Spicy Abura-Soba;” noodles tossed with housemade bacon, capped with a poached egg, and brightened with a dash of yuzu kosho made with Florida citrus.
The bum news is, it will only be two more weeks before the Ichicoro crew decamps, once again, for Tampa. But considering a new pop-up concept will descend on Ramen Lab every month, we’re excited to see what emerging talents Sun Noodle brings to the fore. Bring it on.