‘Well-priced’ ramen shop Nichi Ramen quietly opens near UC Berkeley

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Maya Valluru/Staff

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Nichi Ramen quietly began serving customers in Subway on Bancroft Way on Tuesday afternoon at its soft opening, but Nichi’s grand opening is set for Feb. 18.

Nichi Ramen, the restaurant that replaced the candy shop Sweet on You, is the newest business venture of Espresso Roma, a corporation led by UC Berkeley alumnus Sandy Boyd.

Espresso Roma has managed restaurants in Berkeley and the surrounding cities since the late 1970s. Coffee shops are Espresso Roma’s most popular business venture in Berkeley.

The owner of Nichi Ramen, Cia Moaven, has been with Espresso Roma since 1982 and said he moves from restaurant to restaurant assisting Espresso Roma with the initial management process for each venture.

Espresso Roma’s last venture was The Station Burgers, which serves classics like hamburgers, tacos and its own creations, such as the “burgerrito.”

Nichi is the first Espresso Roma-owned restaurant that specializes in Asian food. Moaven attributes the decision to move into Asian cuisine to Berkeley’s “growing Asian population.” Moaven and his team sampled ramen from several establishments in the area to make sure Nichi’s was as authentic as it could be.

Campus freshman Natalie Kudenholdt said she believes Nichi’s ramen, compared to others in the area, is well-priced and tasty.

“I’d come back, and the service was very accommodating and friendly,” Kudenholdt said.

Nichi’s space is evenly split between Nichi and Subway, with a curtain separating the lines from the dining area. Though the businesses are technically separate, the two restaurants share an entrance.

Moaven said he likes sharing the space with Subway. Because this Subway location also happens to be owned by Sandy Boyd under Espresso Roma, the shared space works in Nichi’s favor.

The Bancroft Way branch of Subway is “one of the most high foot traffic locations in the Bay Area,” according to Moaven, and Nichi has seen more customers before its grand opening than it would have otherwise.

In three weeks, Moaven will leave Nichi and spend his time starting a rotisserie in San Francisco, which is Espresso Roma’s next undertaking. Before he leaves, he said he would like to see Nichi grow by obtaining an alcohol license, setting up in-house seating and expanding its menu.

Campus freshman Rohan Narendra said he believes that word of mouth is powerful at Berkeley, so he thinks Nichi will be popular among students.

“The quality was excellent, considering the quick service,” Narendra said.

Campus freshman Jeremiah Kim said Nichi is convenient for students, and he likes the variety Nichi offers.

“If you’re looking for a quick meal in between classes, it’s good. It’s pretty cheap, and there’s a variety of toppings, which is great.”

Contact Janani Natarajan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jrnatarajan.