Aaron Resch: ramen restauranteur

29 Oct

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Ramen chefs are celebrities in Japan and in New York it’s a dish people line-up for – but this classic noodle dish, served in a broth, isn’t so well known in London. Here’s why Aaron Resch, who has just opened United Ramen, thinks Islington diners are ready for ramen noodles.  Interview by Nicola Baird 

Aaron Resch: I’ve been a foodie all my life but the ramen scene – thick wavy noodles in a soup broth – hasn’t developed much in London. Setting up United Ramen is following my passion and my dream. You’ve got to take chances and do things you really want to do.”

Aaron Resch: I’ve been a foodie all my life but the ramen scene – thick wavy noodles in a soup broth – hasn’t developed much in London. Setting up United Ramen is following my passion and my dream. You’ve got to take chances and do things you really want to do.”

Aaron Resch seems so American – the warm smile, friendly handshake, boundless enthusiasm, and yet he’s not entirely a New York boy. He grew up in Twickenham and trained as a biochemist in Oxford. But when work took him to Hong Kong for three years with the opportunity to travel in the region he fell for Asian cuisine. Now back in London he makes a daily commute up the Northern line from Tooting to Angel tube and his new venture selling noodles. Not just any noodles – ramen noodles.

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Hanisha Solomon and her band delight at Islington Faces Live with their performance. Photo by Vicky Ryzhykh.

Hanisha Solomon and band. Photo by Vicky Ryzhykh.

HUGE THANKS to everyone who came to, starred in or sent supportive messages for the Islington Faces Live event on 27 October 2014. Photo is of Ethiopian singer, Hanisha Solomon, who has strong Finsbury Park links, performing with her band.

We had a fabulous time and raised £200 for the King’s Head Theatre. Please look out for a future post – with photos and video – celebrating the show.

Or enjoy the review by fellow blogger Jane’s London here. You can also see some early photos on Nicola Baird writer’s facebook page here.
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“In Japan every restaurant specialises – there’s sushi and katsu kare (breaded chicken) and ramen. Ramen chefs are celebrities in Japan, each using a secret ingredient, and it’s very difficult to cook at home – our Torigara chicken broth cooks for seven hours,” says Aaron who reckons, “there are 35,000 ramen shops in Japan, that’s one ramen shop per 3,700 people.”

Aaron, 34, opened United Ramen, just up the road from the Screen on the Green, in September (2014) making it the sixth ramen place in London. It’s a no bookings restaurant, with space for around 70 diners – plus seats outside – serving cultural mash ups inspired by Japanese ramen noodles, which are then infused with different cultural flavours. That’s why there’s a Yankee-Doodle dish, inspired by the USA, with BBQ pulled chicken and on the specials you can find British Bulldog Roast Beef Ramen – a beef and chicken bone broth served with mini Yorkshire puddings and eaten with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

United Ramen also serves sweet treats. Try the traditional Japanese mochi filled with chocolate ganache or ice cream rather than the traditional red bean paste.

United Ramen replaces Strada. Try delicious soup based noodle dishes, bubble tea and lychee bubble tea cocktails (aka the Lychee Bubble-Tea-Ni) at 105-106 Upper Street.

United Ramen replaces Strada. Try delicious soup based noodle dishes, bubble tea and lychee bubble tea cocktails (aka the Lychee Bubble-Tea-Ni) at 105-106 Upper Street.

“I’ve been a foodie for a long time,” says Aaron with characteristic enthusiasm and huge smile. “ My first word was ‘brie’.

“I remember we went on holiday to Maine when I was three years old and I wanted to eat the eyes of the [cooked] lobster.” And at eight, when his family were in New York, he was taken to a Japanese restaurant and got hooked on Asian tastes. “I saw octopus tentacles, and wanted to try them. I loved the texture and the way that the suction caps stick to your tongue. I still like that,” admits Aaron.

After an MBA at Imperial College focusing on entrepreneurship Aaron ran 10 months of ramen pop ups at Tottenham Court Road, Tooting Market and the House of Wolf on Upper Street. “We did five at House of Wolf and I saw the excitement people had trying our ramen. It was a great venue.” But it wasn’t his. Aaron’s thesis merged with his interest in the burgeoning London food scene and he began to wonder if he could run his own place. “There’s an urban myth that says nine out of 10 restaurants in London fail after a year. I found that 90 per cent don’t close in the first year – in general the first few years are hard for any new business – but it’s not 90 per cent failing: 35 per cent are still trading five years later.”

A quiet sanctuary just off Upper Street - St Mary's church gardens.

A quiet sanctuary just off Upper Street – St Mary’s church gardens.

What Aaron Resch loves about Islington

  • I’m an Arsenal fan and have been since 1992. I’m not a season ticket holder but I’ve been to the old Highbury ground and the new ground.

  • One of my favourite places is St Mary’s church garden. I go out for a break and enjoy the peace and tranquillity.

  • I love Upper Street and I’ve tried many of the restaurants.

And as you eat enjoy the free-hand spray paint designs done by Japanese-British artist Daisuke Sakaguchi of The 27 Life.

And as you eat enjoy the free-hand spray paint designs done by Japanese-British artist Daisuke Sakaguchi of The 27 Life.

At United Ramen he employs 19 staff, but there’s still plenty to do. “I’m on my feet for 16 hours a day. I’ve lost a stone, but my legs are now super strong as the store rooms are downstairs.” At least he’s eating well: yesterday’s dinner was shoyu ramen, spare ribs and two Little Moons mochi.

So what can you expect when you go to United Ramen? The noodles are bought in from a famous supplier, Sun Noodles* which supplies many New York noodle shops including Momo Fuku  and Ivan Ramen. Everything else is made on site in the restaurant’s two kitchens. The menu explains all that you need to know about ramen eating. But if you need it the staff can help you choose and tuck in. “The English are very polite and so if there are four people at a table they wait until the fourth bowl comes out before they start,” says Aaron. “Whereas the Japanese eat their food right away. We can bring out bowls for six people at the same time – but more than that gets a bit challenging!”

With most dishes around £9 and £6 kids-sized dishes for everything on the menu it’s an excellent way to eat a modern take on a 1,000 year old tradition and an interesting addition to the wonderful choice of restaurants on Upper – or is it Supper – Street.

  • United Ramen, 150-16 Upper Street, N1, tel: 020 7183 3433www.unitedramen.com @unitedramen

Words*
More info about the spread of ramen in the US – where people now queue up for this dish – and the main US ramen noodle supplier (from Hawaii) here.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

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