Toshimasa Sano is 29 years old. He moved to America two months ago and speaks no English. California is a place he only knows from what he’s seen in movies.
He may be quiet, and he may be nervous, but chef Sano is here for one reason: to bring his miso ramen to Orange County.
The unassuming, 20-seat Ramen & Tsukemen 道 Tao restaurant, which will open on Sept. 3, sits in an easy-to-miss strip mall on the corner of West Cerritos Avenue and Valley View Street in Buena Park.
To celebrate the grand opening, Sano is offering 50 free bowls of soup at lunch and another 50 for the dinner to those who follow the restaurant’s Instagram page.
Sano began cooking at 17. He worked at the famed Tokyo ramen restaurant, Tsujita, for 10 years. After meeting an investor, he left behind his family in Asakusa, Tokyo, to live out his dream of owning a ramen restaurant in California.
Chef Sano’s tonkotsu broth, the basis for all of his ramen creations, takes 40 hours to make. There are always two pots of broth simmering in the kitchen simultaneously so there is one ready to serve and one that will be ready for the next day.
Ramen & Tsukemen 道 Tao has a simple menu. It will serve four types of ramen and two pork buns.
The milder white miso version of the signature ramen is served with soy sauce-seasoned bamboo shoots, scallions and a large slice of tender pork chashu.
The red miso variety arrives with thinly sliced curls of scallion whites piled on top of sautéed bean sprouts and the chashu.
The broth containing the red and white miso is more like a sauce than a soup. It’s thick, coating the noodles heartily for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal.
The two other ramen variations include a traditional tonkotsu and tsukemen, which is a dipping noodle with the soup served separately.
All bowls can be supplemented with a soft-boiled egg and a spicy paste called tao, made from garlic and cayenne pepper — as well as the garlic, vinegar, black pepper and soy sauce available on each table.
IF YOU GO
What: Ramen & Tsukemen 道 Tao
Where: 10488 Valley View St., Buena Park
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., starting Sept. 3
Cost: Bowls of soup run from $8.95 for the original varieties, to $9.95 for the spicy and $12.95 for the Chashu ramen bowl with a heaping portion of pork
Information: 714-236-5055; @ramen_and_tsukemen_tao on Instagram