Ramen market? [General]

2011 Dec 24
I've been living in Japan for almost 20 years and thinking about moving back to Canada. My Japanese wife and I have been in the food business here and considering opening a true ramen shop in Ottawa with real, hand-made noodles, gyoza and okonomiyaki.

Is there a market for us?

We're only about 90 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. It has turned out that we have substantially more radioactive contamination than what was reported and my wife is still recovering from breast and ovarian cancer operations, radiation and chemotherapy, so I'm very worried that she may be at risk more than a normal person.

The economy has been in shambles this year from the disaster, so we don't have as much money as we'd like to move to Canada and open up. I couldn't recover if the the market couldn't support another ramen shop.

With that in mind, I'd appreciate any opinions.
Thank you.

2011 Dec 24
How similar is that to Vietnamese Pho?

Because the market for that is pretty saturated in my opinion.

But Asian food is a high growth item right now - there are Sushi shops opening up everywhere too.

2011 Dec 24
my reply is tinged with keen biz. insight less than with optimism on your behalf and wishful thinking on my own, but setting aside all the hard work in opening a new restaurant, etc., the timing might be good for a "traditional" Japanese-themed ramen place.

Looking south, Toronto's a bit ahead on the non-sushi curve: izakayas have taken hold there, and likewise there's a couple ok Ramen places. Skim Chowhound Toronto and you'll find both enthusiasm for ramen and also a lament for the lack of a decent place.

Back in Ottawa, i doubt either of the two places here that currently serve Ramen use hand-made noodles and neither (imo) capture the experience of eating at a good Ramen place in Japan. And, I can't remember anywhere in Ottawa serving okonomiyaki, which itself might have big potential in Ottawa (esp. in winter).

Best luck either way!

2011 Dec 24
Thank you for your comments. I'm originally from Niagara Falls and may consider there also.

2011 Dec 25
I have no business insight, but I do have a bit of info about Japanese culture in Ottawa. I am a Third Master in the Ohara School of Ikebana, and there are hundreds of Ikebana students in Ottawa, predominantly Ohara and Sogetsu, but also Saga Goryu and Ikenobo are represented. There is a chapter of Ikebana International in Ottawa with website here: ikebanaottawa.ca/ There are also many other Japanese cultural activities here in Ottawa including Taiko, Sumi-E, Martial Arts, Tea Ceremony and Kimono Dressing. Check out Camellia Teas at camelliateas.net/ Camellia Teas offers instruction in tea ceremony and tea gatherings, and My students and I were fortunate to attend a gathering there a few weeks ago that included the use of 15th century tea implements. You can also find out about Japanese activities in Ottawa through the Canada Japan Society of Ottawa here: www.cjso-ottawa.com/

Because Ottawa is the nation's capital, we are fortunate to have the Embassy of Japan in town and they are very supportive of all community activities, and sponsor events at the embassy and elsewhere in town. Last fall they brought world reknowned koto players, percussionists and other musicians to the Museum of Civilization for a wonderful concert of both traditional and contemporary Japanese music. The Embassy also hosts an annual reception in honour of the Emperor's birthday at the Westin and this year there were over 800 attendees.

There is an annual Mochitsuki festival just before Christmas that is very well attended, with lineups for homemade Udon and Mochi, but these are not generally available at other times of year here. Recently a master of Wagashi sweet making has taken up residence in Ottawa and has also begun teaching a group of students.

So in my view, there could potentially be a market for your offerings in Ottawa, and you should know that although there is a lot going on in Ottawa wrt Japanese cultural activities, the community seems to be very close knit.

Hope that helps, and I selfishly also hope that you choose Ottawa.

2011 Dec 25
I would LOVE a real ramen place. The best part of visiting Vancouver is going to Kintaro on Denman. You get a choice of broth (light to deliciously fatty), spice factor and every ingredient imaginable (though the addition of cheese on the menu was surprising). There's no lingering here: you wait in line (often outside), sit at communal tables, deuces or the bar, and as soon as you slurped your last noodle, you leave. Yes, we're lucky to have some very good pho places in Ottawa, but ramen is a different category altogether.

2011 Dec 26
Can't speak to its financial viability-- but I can speak to my own incredible desire to have a proper bowl of ramen. At a reasonable price and convenient enough location, I would probably stop by pretty frequently .. you may be able to guess that from my userpic .. have been dying for legit ramen since having it almost daily for a couple months while I toured Japan.
And that's without even mentioning how much I like gyoza.

Can you open tomorrow?

2011 Dec 26
It would be so nice to have a real ramen shop in Ottawa, what kind of ramen do you have in mind? Tonkotsu? Torigara? Vegetarian option would be nice too. Okonomiyaki, gyoza, how about Yakisoba and Takoyaki? it would be so nice!
It would be nice to have a real Udon shop in Ottawa too.
If you wish to hear some opinions from Japanese ppl in Ottawa,
check out this site www.jottawa.com


2011 Dec 26
Once again, thanks to everyone for your comments. And happy new year to you too, Aisu Kurimu san... ^_~

We'd make Kanto, Kansai style broths, and miso (my favourite!) too. Vegetarian and chicken broths would be difficult to make without enough customers. I'm pretty "majime", so I would want to make sure a vegetarian broth was completely isolated during preparation.

Yes, yakisoba is a natural. Takoyaki is difficult without fresh tako, but anything is possible.

As much as it pains me, I can appreciate that I may have to adjust recipes to local tastes. Mediocre ramen is easy to make; good, real ramen (and all Japanese food) is not so easy. Experimenting with food is wonderful and I'm not a "snob" about food presentation, people have different tastes. What's called Japanese food outside of Japan is sometimes, well, shocking to see. Haha!

But, genuine food and flavours may not fit the image people have been exposed to and not what we eat here every day. The real stuff is great and I trust people can come to appreciate it.

Again, thank you for your comments.