Almost half a decade ago, when Zen Box Izakaya (602 Washington Av. S., Mpls., zenbox.com) owner John Ng had the idea to stage a public event celebrating ramen, his wife, co-owner Lina Goh had a message for him:
“You’re crazy,” she told him.
Now, she just chuckles at the memory. The couple will stage their fourth annual Ramen Attack at Mill City Museum (704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., mill citymuseum.org) on Sept. 25.
“Four years later,” she said, “we’re still here.”
They’re here and launching what they expect to be their biggest bash yet. The noodle jubilee highlights a rotation of chefs who join Ng. This year the event will feature a hot shot from New York (Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen), a mainstay in Japan (Shono Tomoharu, who owns seven ramen shops in Tokyo and one in San Francisco) and our own locals Gavin Kaysen and Chris Nye from Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., spoonandstable.com)
All four teams will be whipping up their own styles of ramen for guests who pay $45 for Ramen Attack “passports.”
What can they expect? Orkin, who grew up on Long Island, opened a ramen shop that became one of Tokyo’s most popular. Goh said she and Ng have asked him to come for three years and are elated he is finally available. Tomoharu is acclaimed for his rich pork broth. Ng combines his love for ramen with his Chinese heritage to create his own variety. Kaysen, meanwhile, creates a French version that is offered at Spoon and Stable late Saturday nights.
“We’re very honored and very excited,” Goh said. “We have a really good, interesting mix of chefs. It’s really diverse and it’s going to be a great variety.”
Passports include entry to the museum, two bowls of ramen, one street snack (made by Hola Arepa’s Christina Nguyen), two drink tickets, a dessert ticket and an entry form for giveaways. Surly Brewing is creating a special brew made from shiitake mushrooms and kombu seaweed — called “Not Your Mommy’s Umami” — for the event. Proceeds go to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization.
The event has grown from that first brainstorm — when Ng and Goh were overwhelmed by nearly 1,000 showing up — to what is expected to be close to 3,000 this year. The result is one of the largest ramen gatherings in the Midwest. Pretty good for a “crazy” idea half a decade ago.
“It is something we’re very, very passionate about,” Goh said. “We want to promote the camaraderie of local chefs with those around the country and internationally. It’s just a celebration of the culture and the food and the community, and just a chance to get everyone together.”