'Simply delicious' Japanese restaurant brings ramen trend to Naperville
The word "ramen" might bring back bad memories of instant lunch packets and the starving-student diet.
But a new restaurant set to open this fall in Naperville aims to challenge that by serving ramen as a high-quality comfort food.
Umai Aji-Ya, which translates from Japanese to mean "simply delicious," is preparing to open in September or October at 760 N. Route 59, suite 112, bringing with it an upscale ramen trend that Managing Partner Derek Marx said has not yet reached his hometown.
"There's nothing in the Naperville area like it," Marx said. "It's something that people seek."
Umai Aji-Ya will serve ramen bowls with a pork, chicken or vegan broth base, as well as teriyaki dishes and Japanese barbecue skewers with various meats and vegetables. It's the ramen, featuring hand-pulled noodles and toppings such as soft-boiled eggs and marinated pork belly, that Marx expects to be the draw to the new concept, which is not part of a chain.
"If you've never had good, authentic ramen, it's certainly not the ramen we had back in college," Marx said. "It's a huge, huge difference."
Marx, a 1998 Naperville North High School graduate who has built a career in restaurants, said he first experienced restaurant-style ramen about five years ago.
"Once you try it, you just become -- you just crave it," he said. "It's delicious. It's rich. It's hearty. It's a great, great meal."
A ramen bowl at Umai Aji-Ya will cost about $13 or $14, while a barbecue skewer will cost $13 to $17, depending on the meat. The atmosphere in the restaurant will be laid-back, Marx said, matching the relaxed experience of eating ramen.
"It's casual as well," he said. "You slurp the noodles. You sit back and have time with family. It's one of those foods that brings people together."
Aside from offering an introduction to Japanese cuisine beyond sushi, bringing people together is what the new restaurant hopes to do, Marx said.
"One thing that brings everyone together, regardless of culture, is food," he said. "There's nothing better than enjoying great food with great company."