Ramen is one of the most loved dishes and Victoria has several places that do mouth-watering interpretations of Japanese cuisine – but there’s a new ramen hot spot in town called Kizuna Ramen.
Kizuna is currently operated as a “ghost kitchen” — a restaurant that sells takeout from the store’s kitchen. For Kizuna, they rent a space at Little Piggy Catering in Esquimalt.
Yoshimune Arima grew up in Tokyo, moved to Toronto, then Germany and finally ended up in Victoria, sponsored by Ferris’ Grill and Garden Patio, all the while working in kitchens and learning along the way.
Before Kizuna Ramen
It all started in 2021, at the height of the pandemic, when restaurants were closed. Arima was asked by Ferris’ chef and owner, Dave Craggs, to come up with a ramen meal kit that customers could take home.
“Those days, people couldn’t go out of their houses and restaurants were also closed,” Arima told Victoria Buzz.
“Dave asked me to make a ramen meal kit and I was like, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never made ramen,'” he laughed.
Arima set about researching best practices and making trial batches of noodles, broth, and toppings for several months, but by the time he came up with his own unique yet authentic ramen, certain COVID-19 regulations were eased and Ferris no longer need to make meal kits.
“They didn’t need the meal kit anymore, but my boss really liked the ramen I made, so he convinced me to open a pop-up restaurant at another restaurant — Part and Parcel,” Arima said.
After that pop-up, Arima did another one at Perro Negro, one of Ferris’ sister restaurants.
From there, Arima continues to develop his recipe and figure out how he can source the ingredients to set up shop running his own ramen restaurant.
The perfect noodle, broth and eggs
Ramen may seem like a simple dish, but underneath it all is a complex combination of flavors that are precisely fine-tuned to create the perfect umami experience—the fifth taste that combines sweet, sour, salty, and bitter in harmony.
Arima created his own noodle recipe, which consists of a blend of different flours and fine-tuned hydration of the noodles to make them the perfect amount of bounce.
He found a company in Vancouver that will make his noodle recipe in large batches because he is already so limited on time and space in the kitchen.
“We are the only ones who use this noodle, which makes it special,” Arima said.
His broth is a homemade Tonkotsu pork bone broth that he sources locally. Most butchers have no use for pork bones, so Arima buys them from local businesses and only uses BC bones.
This helps to use every part of the animal and adds tremendously to the umami flavor of the broth.
Its eggs are soft-boiled to perfection and marinated in a mixture of sake, mirin, soy sauce, onion, garlic and kombu dashi.
“Eggs should be marinated for at least 12 hours so that the marinade can slowly cook the soft eggs so that the yolk becomes creamier,” muses Arima.
Discovering Kizuna Ramen
Kizuna means “relationship” in Japanese, which is a way of describing relationships or relationships.
“I hope one day my bowl of ramen will connect people together as family, friends, our restaurant, farmers, butchers – like any connection, establish ‘Kizuna’ through our ramen,” Arima described.
Arima left Ferris’ in August 2022 and spent the next few months lining up his ducks, dealing with licensing, health inspections and ingredient sourcing before finally starting service from Little Piggy Catering in December 2022.
But first, he took a trip to the birthplace of the iconic dish to investigate.
“I came back to Japan and tried all the ramen restaurants I really wanted to go to,” Arima said.
Once back, he put together his menu, which for now is just more variety on the way down the road.
Kizuna has pork Tonkotsu ramen and they also serve vegan miso ramen. They also make vegetable and pork gyoza as well as rice bowls.
Arima has made sure not to leave vegans and vegetarians disappointed with his vegetarian creations, they are top notch and just as good as their meat counterparts.
Now, just four months into his journey as a restaurateur, sales are starting to pick up, additional staff have been hired and Arima is already looking to the future.
Arima says he will operate as a ghost kitchen for a full year before applying for a loan to get the funds he will need for a physical location in Victoria.
“That’s why I started as a ghost kitchen,” Arima explained. “We didn’t have the budget to open [Kizuna location].”
“It costs about $200,000 or $300,000 to open a space, so we started small.”
Once he gets access to funds, Arima fully plans to find a place to open for his customers to dine in. He hopes to find an affordable location in downtown Victoria, but said that’s a bridge he’ll cross later depending on what he can find.
“It’s just my dream, but one day I’d like to have a central kitchen like the one I’m using now with smaller locations in Victoria, Nanaimo and Langford that I can send ingredients to.”
Arima wants to spread his ramen to as many mouths as possible on Vancouver Island and beyond.
His ramen empire is just getting started.
- Where: 776 Fairview Road, Esquimalt
- When: From Friday to Wednesday from 17:30 to 21:30