Shiki Menya, a popular dine-in only ramen house located in the heart of Bridgeland, Calgary has always focused on serving fresh ramen to its customers, selling 150 bowls a day. However, adapting to the ongoing pandemic, the restaurant now offers a unique solution that won’t spoil your love for soup.
Koki Aihara, the owner of Shiki Menya, first opened the restaurant six years ago in April and introduced ramen that wasn’t available in Calgary.
“It was something new, even just having limited quantity and limited options. I think we kind of brought up ramen that wasn’t necessarily available in Calgary because it wasn’t like the classic shoyu or shio ramen. We came out with a more intense flavour profile like we have the new school — kara miso garlic and more intense flavour ramen. So I think we just had a lot of new things to offer to people.”
Aihara says that his team prepares all of the ingredients at Shiki Menya the day before, starting with their noodles and pork bone-braised broth.
“It is a lengthy process, which is why we limit the amount of portions that we do daily, and we can make sure that we serve the best quality that we can for the people.”
BUILD-YOUR-OWN RAMEN TAKEAWAY
Before the pandemic, Shiki Menya wasn’t offering takeout boxes for their customers. Instead, they emphasized eating the food at the restaurant to give their customers the best ramen experience possible.
“Ramen is very time-sensitive. When we make our noodles, we have a proper time that we cook it for, and when we put it in the bowl, we build it. By the time it gets to you, it should be the optimal timing for the ramen. So by doing takeout, we are compromising our quality.”
Pre-Covid-19 ramen bowl inside Shiki Menya. Photo: Shiki Menya
After COVID-19 gradually increased in Calgary, Aihara voluntarily closed down Shiki Menya on March 16, for the protection of his staff and the customers that were still coming in. “I wanted to make sure that we had a safe environment.”
He then decided to make some changes to the restaurant to tackle the situation and keep the business running.
“We went from dine-in only to takeout only because of the virus. We definitely had to make some adjustments. We’ve gone completely 180 degrees from our business model.”
Aihara came up with ramen kits for the customers so that they could have the same ramen at the comfort of their homes, without compromising on quality.
“If you do prep it in the restaurant, then by the time you have it delivered to your house, you’re looking at like 30 to 40 minutes of wait time. Ramen needs to be delivered within like five, 10 minutes, you know. The kit is something that you build at home whenever it is convenient for you. So when you do eat it, it’s still fresh. You still get that Shiki Menya freshness and that quality. And I feel like that would help people throughout this time when we don’t have the luxury of going out right now.”
Online pre-orders open Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., delivering Monday to Wednesday between 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., with the deliveries happening within five kilometres. The ramen kits quickly became popular among the Shiki Menya regulars and were generally sold out online between three to five minutes.
Instead of relying on delivery services such as SkipTheDishes or DoorDash, Aihara’s team handles the deliveries themselves, adding additional safety provisions at the restaurant.
“We do only deliveries because we are trying to limit the amount of contact we were having with people,” said Aihara. “I hired back my old staff as drivers.”
With two cooks and three drivers on staff right now, Shiki Menya is doing what they can to minimize contact with customers, and between employees.
“We’ve kept everything within our team. The deliveries are done by my team. So it’s all Shiki Menya staff. We’ve got three kitchen guys right now that are pushing 500 servings a week. But we are still trying to keep everything limited. For safety reasons, we only have two to three people at a time in the kitchen. We try to get as much prep done as we can, and we’re taking sanitary precautions to protect our customers and also our workers.”
Shiki Menya ramen kit. Photo: Peehu Rana
BRIDGELAND MARKET PARTNERSHIP
Shiki Menya has also teamed up with the neighbourhood grocery store, Bridgeland Market, by selling a certain amount of kits to the store and making curbside pick-up available for people who live outside the five-kilometre radius. This way, they can pick up their kits at the grocery store instead. The kits are available to pick-up from Monday to Thursday and can be pre-ordered on Sundays at 2 p.m. online on Bridgeland Market’s site.
Calgary’s reopening of restaurants started Monday, June 15 with the city following the first phase of the province’s economic relaunch strategy. Aihara says that Shiki Menya will not be opening up for dine-in guests just yet.
“We’ve got some things coming up that we’re going to announce pretty soon. But as of right now, we’re going to keep going with the kits and the deliveries. Even if we did open for 50 per cent capacity, I would for sure try to push the kits a little bit more as well just so that people can still enjoy it without having to deal with the pressure of coming in due to the space, and we still want to protect our staff as well.”
“We have a small number of staff working, so we are doing all we can with what we have, given the situation. But I feel like we are getting better each week. I’m stoked that people are lining up online. I fell in love when I looked outside the window when we were open, and now we get love online too. It’s been crazy, but I’m really blessed.”
*** Update: The Shiki Menya has taken a break from the ramen kits starting June 14 until further notice.
- By Peehu Rana