Tenka Ramen offers new, authentic option for RVA’s ramen scene

by | Jun 22, 2016 | POLITICS

The popularity of Japanese and other Asian restaurants has steadily increased throughout the years, namely sushi spots, but now there’s a new ramen-ya in town –
The popularity of Japanese and other Asian restaurants has steadily increased throughout the years, namely sushi spots, but now there’s a new ramen-ya in town –
Tenka Ramen.

Located at 110 N 5th Street, between Grace and Franklin Streets, Tenka Ramen hopes to capitalize on the growing market and provide RVA with a new traditional Japanese ramen option.

RVA Mag spoke to new spot’s Head Server, Gilmar Palma (pictured below, grey polo), who called himself a close associate and friend of owner Yutaka Nogami (pictured below, top row, middle). He spoke some on what to expect on the menu and helped give some backstory on Nogami’s transition into ramen.

The restaurant offers a combination of chicken and pork broth which makes the foundation for the ramen bowls, but the ratios used make the real difference.

“We cook this everyday so our combination broth is 60% chicken broth and 40% pork broth, so it’s a little light flavoring cause chicken broth is a little light,” Palma said. “But we have our Tenka Ramen broth which is our signature ramen. And that is our tonkotsu broth which means it’s 60% pork bone broth and 40% chicken so it’s a lot thicker and a lot hardier and more flavor.”

Alongside the different ramen offered, there are six total, Tenka Ramen also has two non-ramen entrée options and nine appetizers. “If someone is looking for something else other than noodle soup, they have an option that is sufficient enough for a meal,” said Palma.

takoyaki – round pasty stuffed with diced octopus

I happened to try one of the non-ramen options during my visit, a curry rice dish served with a side salad. The dish came with pork cutlets that were crispy and drowned in a delicious curry sauce along with white rice and salad.

It ended up being a large meal with enough to take home, something Palama said is customary of Tenka Ramen’s serving size.

“Yeah, average price is about $10 per bowl and it’s enough that you can take it out or take it home,” said Palma. “It’s fair and reasonable,”

Palma also discussed Nogami’s move to Richmond and transition from sushi to ramen.

Initially an owner of a sushi restaurant for 13 years, Miyako in Charlottesville, Nogami noticed a surplus of sushi restaurants that forced a transition.

“[He] has been in the restaurant business for the past 30 years now… in Charlottesville… the sushi business is getting a little saturated, even Kroger and grocery stores are getting it,” Palma said.

After Nogami decided he would open a ramen spot in a larger city, he began to trace back to his origins working for Japanese ramen shops.

“He’s from Kyoto, Japan, and he worked for a few ramen shops there. So before selling his business in Charlottesville, he needed to have a plan and he remembered his ramen days,” Palma said. “He started doing his recipes back in Charlottesville and even before he sold it he already started coming up with recipes and getting people to try it.”

Nogami set up shop in Richmond due to growing Japanese influence in the city. “We have a few Japanese steakhouses so we have a market we can tap into… he already saw that Richmond has a sense for noodles,” Palma said.

I, for one, am glad they chose Richmond to open up. The food is tasty, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is inviting, a trifecta that will ensure a great dining experience.

After all, according to Palma, Tenka Ramen stands for “heaven on earth ramen.”

“’Ten’ means from the heavens and ‘ka’ means down on earth – so when you put it together it’s heaven on earth ramen.”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at BradKutnerNPR@gmail.com

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