Restaurant takes ramen to next level
Japanese fare is authentic — and no sign of sushi
Is a bowl of soup worth $20? In the case of Shimuja restaurant in Davie and its Kagoshima special ramen, the answer is a resounding yes. It is wondrous, the best ramen I have tasted in South Florida, perhaps worth its weight in gold. The broth is rich and deep, a golden-brownish hue striated with milky ripples of marrow released from pork bones that simmer for 18 hours. Actually, a whole pig — head and all — is reduced to this soulful essence, which is then layered with yellow egg noodles, slices of braised pork belly, scallions, cabbage, sprouts, seaweed, fish cake, boiled egg and a generous pile of crispy, fried kikurage (wood ear mushroom) shards.
This is a meal, not simply a bowl of soup, and it most decidedly is not your dorm room’s ramen.
Diners who want to save five bucks can order the strippeddown tonkotsu version ($15), the same hearty broth with noodles and slices of roasted Duroc pork shoulder. For vegans and the pork averse, Shimuja has a lighter yet no less flavorful option, the Niku ramen ($17), made from kombu (sea kelp), shiitake mushrooms and specialty soy sauce, and piled with thin rice noodles.
That such an authentic taste of Japan is now found in a strip mall next to a Publix in the western Broward suburbs is an amazing story, one that shows how small the world has become in the 21st century. That some patrons have been complaining about the price of this perfection since Shimuja opened three months ago is disturbing.
“There’s been pushback,” managing partner Yoko Takarada said in a followup interview after my visits. “People are used to paying $10 or $12 for ramen. They don’t understand how much goes into this.”
A decade ago, Keiichi Maemura ditched his career as a stockbroker in Fukuoka, Japan, after he became obsessed with the tonkotsu ramen found at Ippudo, a chain headquartered in that city. He became a ramen chef, studying under Ippudo’s founder, Shigemi Kawahara. After working at Ippudo’s New York outpost, Maemura returned to his hometown of Kagoshima City in 2011 to open his own ramen shop, Shimuja. The first location had six seats. The second location was on Miami Avenue in Kagoshima City, and soon Maemura was entranced with the notion of opening a shop in the real Miami, Kagoshima’s sister city.
Two years ago, Maemura operated pop-ups in Miami Beach and the Brickell area. But rents in Miami were prohibitive, and he wanted a spot with free parking. He scouted the region and settled on the Regency Square strip mall just east of the Griffin Road exit of I-75, near a Waffle House and Dairy Queen.
American-born Yoko Takarada knew she wanted to be involved with Shimuja upon her first slurp of Maemura’s ramen at the popup. Her family runs the venerable Toni’s Sushi in Miami Beach (in business since 1987), and she also owns Shokudo restaurant in Miami’s Design District.
“Keiichi had already signed the lease in Davie, and I brought some local knowledge and restaurant experience,” Takarada says. “I was a little skeptical about the location, but people are finding us. There is a big Asian communi-
The Kagoshima special ramen ($20) at Shimuja restaurant in Davie is an authentic taste of Japan, its broth made from whole pig and pork bones.
Pork belly buns ($9) from Shimuja restaurant in Davie.