Sensing a viable business opportunity, he began poking around town looking for a permanent spot for a dedicated ramen shop -- he was looking for a needle in a haystack. It needed to be an existing restaurant so entry costs would be minimum. It needed to be small (1,000sqft or less). It needed to be in the right neighborhood, in the right location, with ample lunch and dinner traffic. Still, it could be a risky move to open a stand-alone, 20-seat shop dedicated to ramen. Phoenicians, in general, are partial to well-known chains. Ramen, except among a select group of hardcore, adventurous food lovers, is unfamiliar.
But his efforts should undoubtedly pay off. After all, there's a reason Joshua Hebert is known as the Phoenix Ramen King, even though solid bowls served by others with more direct ties to Japan do exist here in town. One bowl of goma (his signature) is enough to dispel any doubt. Silky, fatty pork broth swirled with delicate dashi and flavored with no small amount of rich sesame paste (imported from Japan) presents a commanding stage for springy, chewy noodles. Crunchy baby bok choy and shishito peppers provide a modicum of sensibility. Julienned leeks, a modest sheet of nori, and smoky katsuobushi (dried, fermented shaved tuna) miraculously waving in adoration atop the hot, steaming broth, gild the crown. An onsen egg is optional, except that it’s not -- for good reason. No one blinks an eye if you collapse in ecstasy after voraciously slurping down an order -- busted, grinning ear-to-ear when the server whisks away the naked bowl.