This week, Lexington welcomed a new Japanese restaurant with familiar faces.
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Hokkaido Ramen House opened Aug. 18 at 205 Columbia Ave., in the same shopping center with Eggs Up Grill and Rush’s. The new Lexington location of the national chain is owned and operated by Jonathan Chen and his wife, Sandy, who also own Ganbei Japanese Restaurant & Bar in the Kitty’s Korner shopping area on Sunset Boulevard.
Jonathan said his family members help out at the restaurants, making Ganbei and Hokkaido truly family businesses. Jonathan’s brother and sister-in-law, JP and Elaine Chen, are managing the ramen house, and Jonathan said that even the employees who aren’t family are like family, looking out for each other, especially with COVID-19 still lingering around.
The last thing Jonathan wants is to have an employee contact the disease, so they take extra precautions for everyone’s safety and well-being.
Jonathan said he is grateful for the customer support at Ganbei, which was a motivator in wanting to open the first ramen restaurant in Lexington. The support for Hokkaido began pouring in before it opened.
When Ganbei made a post about the new restaurant on its Facebook page, it received more than 250 comments.
Customers “really wanted [a ramen restaurant] in Lexington,” Jonathan said. “There’s one in Columbia, but it’s kind of far for Lexington residents to drive out there. I thought it was a good idea to open an authentic ramen place.”
The dish is a soup featuring long wheat noodles in a meat-based broth, often flavored with miso or soy sauce, and decked out with meat, nori, scallions, soft-boiled eggs and more.
When it came time to research and prepare to open Hokkaido, really good ingredients were important to Jonathan and his wife. Before he and his wife got into the restaurant business, finding good ingredients was a must.
“Ingredients matter,” Jonathan stated matter-of-factly.
Hokkaido also has signature appetizers, including edamame, sesame balls and shumai, to name a few. There are 16 appetizers in total, designed to please an array of appetites.
As for the ramen dishes, there are more than 10 different kinds of ramen soups. There is a gluten-free option and a vegetable ramen cooked in a soy bean broth. All the other soups are cooked with either chicken or beef broth.
Jonathan recommended the spicy beef ramen, saying it is popular with those who have already tasted it.
In addition to the many ramen dishes, the restaurant also has signature drinks, including bubble tea, with customers being able to determine their desired sweetness. There are also wine and beer options.
Hokkaido’s hours of operation are 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch and 4-9 p.m. for dinner, Sunday-Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, lunch hours are the same, while dinner hours are extended until 9:30 p.m.
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