New Ghost Restaurant Ups Fort Worth’s Food Power — Kintaro Ramen + Sushi Could be a Sign of the Future
T.The coronavirus has brought many dangers that need to be overcome. It sometimes seems like a series of B-rated horror films are coming out one after the other.
First it was the unknown nature of the disease itself. Then came the news that Japanese “murder hornets” had been discovered on the mainland, followed by news of starving “cannibal rats” now roaming across America. So if I use the term “ghost restaurant” I wouldn’t blame you if you ran away in fear and went underground for good.
But ghost restaurants are actually good news. Let me explain.
When restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms for weeks, those with food trucks took to the streets and settled in different parts of the city to feed their communities. It also threw a lifeline for struggling diners when they were (sometimes literally) almost completely shut down for the past couple of months.
The concept of a ghost restaurant is new to Fort Worth but is already popular in other parts of the country. Similar to food trucks, ghost restaurants allow a take-away-only model (supplied by DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, and the like) that only requires the commercial kitchen and kitchen staff to be successful.
A new haunted restaurant has just sprung up at 6916 Camp Bowie Boulevard. Starting this week, Kintaro Ramen + Sushi is serving delicious bowls of elaborate ramen and sushi in the Ridglea region. The first Kintaro Ramen location opened in April in downtown Arlington at 101 E. Abram Street, Suite 130, no sushi. You are again 50 percent full to dine at this place.
When I first asked co-owner Han Le (himself a first-time restaurant owner) about the Arlington restaurant, he forgot to include a small detail. His chef and business partner has great credibility. Jesus Garcia is the man behind the menu. A man who indeed has award-winning credentials to back up his ramen and sushi acumen.
Garcia first honed his skills at Sushi Yoko near Camp Bowie, then raised the price at Little Lilly Sushi in Ridglea Village before launching the hugely successful Oni Ramen with two locations – one on Crockett Row and the other in Dallas ‘Deep Ellum. Garcia still keeps a stake in Oni Ramen, best known for its hot ramen called Oni Reaper, with its pop of Carolina Reaper – one of the hottest peppers in the world.
Kintaros ramen is not a separate ramen bowl that you can find elsewhere. Instead, Garcia only offers three types of expertly dressed ramen with a limited number of personalized add-ons.
Some of the menu items can now be delivered in the ghost kitchen.
First there is the silky tonkotsu. This traditional dish is inspired by classic Fukuoka-style pork broths – cooked for 48 hours to extract all of the flavor from the bones, cartilage and marrow. It is topped with garlic puree, Japanese mayu, chashu pork (roasted pork belly), ajitama (half-boiled eggs soaked with sweet soy), kikurage mushroom, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), spring onions and a shake of sesame furikake.
The classic miso ramen represents Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, Jesus Garcia told PaperCity Fort Worth. It’s a creamy rendition of pork and chicken broth garnished with aromatic lard, chashu, muneniku (in this case, sliced chicken), ajitama eggs, menma, buttered corn, green onions, sesame furikake, and fried garlic.
Finally, there is the completely pork-free Tokyo-style version of chintan, which represents the main island of Kyushu. The soy-seasoned, clear chicken broth contains pepper Schmaltz (chicken fat), more muneniku, ajitama, menma, oshitashi (spinach seasoned with sesame oil), diced onions, spring onions, sesame furikake and fried leeks.
“We decided to use this available space to launch Kintaro in Fort Worth and begin delivering to customers,” says Garcia. It will ultimately serve as the central kitchen for the restaurant group as they hope to expand service to other parts of Tarrant County.
“This kitchen should be able to serve four restaurants,” he says. “We explored the idea of a central kitchen to ensure the continuity of our product.”
Having a central kitchen is essential because if the broth and ramen are not perfect, the whole dish will be thrown away.
“That way I can oversee the components and quality control so you can get the same delicious ramen in both restaurants,” says Garcia.
This is also the reason why sushi is currently only available in Ridglea. “It will take time to find people who have the ability to make sushi to my standards,” says Garcia.
Hawaiian bigeye sashimi.
Three of the characteristic rolls of the new Kintaro Ramen + Sushi are an allusion to the region. Rainbow over Ridglea is a citrus crab, a cucumber roll with tuna, yellowtail and avocado, while the Lazy Panther contains spicy crabs, spicy cream cheese in a cucumber roll with crispy panko and a sweet chilli reduction.
Garcia has also given a new twist to the ancient dish. Pickled and fermented ingredients give some of his new rolls a special touch.
“It’s common in Japan to add fermented flavors to sushi, but it’s something new in American cuisine,” says Garcia.
Funkytown’s finest roll adds pickled okra to the mix, and pickled jalapenos can be found on the flavorful Demon Slayer.
If everything goes as planned, you may see more Kintaro Ramen restaurants and service areas in the future. Currently, guests can order delivery from DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, or choose the pickup option from UberEats if they prefer to pick them up themselves.