Owner of new Ramen eatery in Orange wants diners to feel at home
Jimmy Pan’s new restaurant, Hokkaido Ramen, has a Japanese focus, but he’s savoring the change after 25 years in the Chinese restaurant business.
“I’m enjoying the business,” Pan said a few weeks after opening.
It’s a little easier than running a large menu of dishes, he said.
Pan, who came to the United States in 1991 at 19 years old, learned how to cook from an uncle and in 1994 opened Rich Garden, his first restaurant in Orange. Later, he opened Oriental Express in Wallingford and sold that before returning to Orange.
He wound up in the Ramen business at the urging of his business partner who is Japanese and had the secrets of Ramen recipes to share.
It doesn’t much matter to Pan what country the food originates from, because his overriding passion is seeing that customers are happy with the food and warmly treated, he said.
“I want customers to feel like they’re staying home to eat,” he said. “I want them to feel they’re coming here to enjoy a meal with family.”
Pan said he wants employees to feel the same. On the front of workers’ shirts is a bowl of Ramen, and on the back are the words, “I like this job.”
“I want employees to feel like they’re like family,” Pan said.
The name of the restaurant, Hokkaido Ramen, comes from the name of an island named Hokkaido, the second largest in Japan.
The décor at the eatery, at 297 Boston Post Road in the Orange Commons shopping center, is simple, yet embracing. The tables and chairs are dark, brown wood. The bottom walls and a long bar for eating are in light wood, as they would be at a Ramen bar in Japan, Pan said, and simple posters of Japan adorn the walls and add color.
The restaurant is roomy at 2,300 square feet and Pan wanted it that way, turning down smaller locations in the area.
The restaurant offers 10 Ramen dishes, the most popular being Spicy Miso. The broths are simmered with the bone for more than 10 hours, Pan said.
The eatery also carries unique appetizers such as deep-fried crab meat and cream cheese stuffed jalapeños, as well as the standards made from scratch, such as “homemade dumplings.” It also has Hibachi and Donburi — Japanese rice bowl dishes.
The best non-Ramen seller, “Chef’s Special,” contains slices of marinated rib eye beef sauteed with mushrooms and onions, served with white rice and steamed vegetables.
Customers can get a side of spicy, homemade kimchi for free, Pan said. Kimchee is a Korean staple made of salted and fermented vegetables.
Hokkaido Ramen is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9:30 p.m.
Charlotte Lee of Orange stopped in for lunch on a whim this week and said she was pleasantly surprised. Lee said the food was fresh and tasty — and she’s had Ramen in Japan.
“I’ll come back,” she said.
Customer reviews on Yelp describe the food as being full-bodied, layered with flavor and not too salty, as can sometimes be the case with Ramen.