Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Ramen Restaurant Revolution

Hawaiian Noodle Master Sees the Bayou City as the Next Frontier

BY Laurann Claridge // 03.16.17
photography Joel Kapono

Japanese-born, Hawaiian-reared chef Hisashi “Teddy” Uehara is a ramen expert. At age 19, he apprenticed with a strict Japanese chef, peeling onions and washing dishes for a year until he was deemed worthy of learning the secrets of composing sushi, tempura, kaiseki, and more.

He now oversees his own noodle empire of ramen shops called AGU, with five locations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu (hailed as the best on the island) and three in Houston, with seven more Houston locations planned for later this year.

The cozy 2,500-square-foot restaurants have a warm wabi sabi vibe: Old wooden planks from a horse barn in the Great Lakes region line the walls, and light bulbs intertwine through a ladder suspended above butcher-block tables.

But most remarkable is Uehara’s dedication to his craft. For more than 15 years, he’s perfected his rich broths, with three years dedicated to the art of making noodles. For tonkotsu, AGU’s creamy pork broth, Uehara pulls out his seasoned 80-gallon Japanese kettle (a single one can set you back $25,000) and boils 1,560 pounds of pork bones for 22 hours to extract their full flavor.

Ramen dishes made with chicken or pork broth (or both) dominate the menu, alongside vegetarian and spicy options ($12 – $16).

Chef Teddy Uehara
Chef Teddy Uehara

Tasty small plates range from tori nanban (fried chicken pieces dipped in a sweet soy vinaigrette with a house-made tartar sauce, $10) to mimiga (thinly sliced pig’s ears, deep-fried and paired with spicy volcano sauce, $6). Coming soon: poke, the Hawaiian raw-fish salad.

We can’t wait to see what Uehara does with this taste of his Oahu home. AGU, A Ramen Bistro, 7340 Washington Ave., aguramen.com.

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