Joshu-Ya Brasserie, once a popular Japanese sushi restaurant on Dwight Way off Telegraph Avenue, has closed and reopened as Kyushu Ramen.
First opened in 1978, Joshu-Ya was one of Berkeley’s original sushi restaurants. In the 1970s, sushi restaurants were not as common, but Joshu-Ya was a popular “good place to eat,” according to Stuart Baker, the executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District.
Chef Kazuo Negishi founded Joshu-Ya but handed over the reins in 2011 when Jason Kwon took over management. With Kwon in charge, Joshu-Ya transformed into Joshu-Ya Brasserie, but four years later in 2015, Kwon moved to New York and sold Joshu-Ya Brasserie.
Ronald Brown, who was an employee of Joshu-Ya Brasserie, is now learning the ropes at Kyushu Ramen. Brown said as an employee, he dined everyday at Joshu-Ya Brasserie for lunch and dinner, eventually trying “everything from rolls to pan-fried noodles.”
The current CEO, owner and head chef of Kyushu Ramen, Chae Chang, has been working with sushi for almost 20 years. Chang said Joshu-Ya Brasserie was a very good restaurant, but as years went by, it was hard to find good sushi chefs. Chang said he thought that sushi was going out of style, but “ramen in the United States is becoming a trend.”
The economy, local students’ tight budgets and the small number of ramen stores in South Berkeley drove Chang to start his own ramen restaurant. Brown said there are a lot of different sushi places people can go to, but not as many ramen houses that have a distinct flavor like Kyushu’s noodles do.
Kyushu Ramen’s menu has four types of ramen to choose from, 13 combo ramen sets, pork belly tacos and other dishes like calamari rings. With a “diverse menu for a diverse city,” Brown said customers are now able to “try out ramen or stick to what (they) know — there (is) a variety. With sushi, there was limitation.”
The tonkotsu — pork bone broth — which brews for about 24 hours straight, is Kyushu Ramen’s speciality.
When Chang visited Japan two years ago, he tasted tonkotsu broth, which became an inspiration for his new shop. He said, “the broth is the key to the restaurant.” According to Chang, the broth is healthy and freshly brewed around the clock.
Many employees from local businesses like the change from sushi to ramen. Yukiko Ramirez, a worker at Muracci’s Japanese Curry & Grill on Telegraph Avenue — a block away from Kyushu Ramen — and Maria Tule, an employee at Han’s Bistro down the street, said they were looking forward to trying Kyushu Ramen in the future.
Kyushu’s ramen is “heads and shoulders, above all the other ramen I’ve tasted,” Brown said.