In 2015, Robert Greenup had an epiphany. The Oregonian had spent more than a decade in a career he enjoyed, but he was still trying to figure out his calling. It wasn’t until a 2015 trip to Japan that Greenup found his true obsession: tonkotsu ramen.
“I went to a ramen shop in Japan, Mutekiya,” Greenup says. “I’m half Japanese, my mom is Japanese, and when I had that ramen in Japan, it was a revelation.” Greenup spent a year making tonkotsu, trying out new recipes every week until he figured it out. He hosted friends for ramen parties, and, eventually, decided to go all-in. Starting this March, Greenup will serve his personal take on tonkotsu at his own ramen shop, Baka Umai.
Opening next to Por Que No on Hawthorne, Baka Umai — which translates to “stupid delicious” in Japanese — will serve tonkotsu, tsukemen, and a vegetarian-friendly shiitake ramen, all served with house-made noodles. It’s been a while since Greenup worked in kitchens (he worked as prep cook as a teenager), but he’s very serious about making everything in-house: A ramen extruder is on its way from Japan, so the restaurant can make Hakata-style noodles, medium-sized Tokyo-style noodles, and wide noodles for the tsukemen.
Still, the ramen at Baka Umai will definitely feature some of Greenup’s personal style: The chef plans on serving bowls of ramen with “baka bombs,” a small ball of black garlic and jalapeno that customers can add to their ramen. He’s also serious about loading up bowls beforehand, instead of including a laundry list of add-ons for an additional fee — bowls will come with eggs, pork belly, and a number of toppings and veggies from the get-go.
Beyond the ramen, Baka Umai will have a small menu of appetizers, including bourbon marinated double-fried chicken karaage and General Tso’s meatballs with blue cheese. He’s particularly excited about his ochazuke, a rice dish he calls a “childhood favorite.”
On the beverage side of things, Baka Umai will offer beer, wine, and an extensive sake list down the line, as well as boba tea, green tea, coffee, and sodas. Set up in a fast-casual space, the 38-seater will have low bars and music videos playing on a mounted tv. Baka Umai will open in March at 4707 SE Hawthorne Blvd.