Ramen, but without the broth: Japanese abura soba restaurant coming to San Mateo

Ramen, but without the broth: Japanese abura soba restaurant coming to San Mateo
(Photo: Kajiken Square 2, Facebook)
By Marie Edinger - Published on May 16, 2022.

A bowl of ramen can look very different depending on where you order it. At a new restaurant hitting downtown San Mateo, the bowl won’t even be a soup.

Kajiken, a Japanese chain restaurant, serves fresh-made ramen noodles with fixings, all presented without broth. Instead, the Chronicle reports, the noodles are topped with house-made soy sauce, chili oil, and vinegar to moisten them, and are served alongside traditional accompaniments like egg yolk, seaweed, green onion, bamboo shoots, and meat. The dish is known as abura soba.

The format of the restaurant is a bit different from normal ramen shops as well. Customers go to a kiosk and order either a pre-crafted noodle bowl, or choose to create their own. If they go with the option to make their own combinations, they can choose from upwards of 15 toppings. They can also stand by to watch the noodles being made fresh. The dining room will seat about 40 people.

Kajiken has restaurants in Japan, Singapore, and China. Its new spot in the Bay will be its first entry into the United States. Although the eatery is a chain, each of its locations offers something somewhat different. The new spot near B Street and 1st Ave in San Mateo is sure to have its own unique qualities and flavor options tailored toward American tastes, or Americans looking to experience new flavors. The new restaurant will also have the choice of vegan dishes, which Bay area ramen consumers have been increasingly interested in.

This isn’t the first brothless ramen restaurant to reach California. SoCal has seen a trend of mazeman (also called mazesoba) arising in recent years, which is also served without broth. Tsukemen, which has broth served separately for the noodles to be dipped into, is also increasingly popular. Northern California is only just now seeing this trend arise, however. There are restaurants that offer ramen without broth, but none before now that specialized in it. The expansion is all thanks to a man named Timothy Lu.

The Chronicle reports that Lu learned about abura soba while studying in Japan in 2011, a year after Kajiken opened its first restaurant. When he moved back to the Bay, he missed the restaurant dearly. He messaged Kajiken on Facebook suggesting they open a spot in the U.S. and the owners hopped on the opportunity.

The chain now has over 100 locations worldwide. Its San Mateo location at 112 B Street is expected to open in late summer or early fall of 2022.