Founded in 1994, Marukin is one of Tokyo, Japan’s most distinct and popular mid-sized specialty ramen chains. With 9 locations around Tokyo, Japan, Marukin brings their first ever stateside locations to Portland, Oregon, specializing in signature Japanese ramen created with locally sourced ingredients that has been perfected over 20+ years. The noodles are handmade and served fresh daily. Marukin’s Japanese Chefs bring their skills, experience and love to Portland.
Marukin’s authentic ramen is born through carefully scratch-made, slow-cooked, quality ingredients with the proper proportion of Japanese seasonings. Executive Chef Sakai is a skilled Japanese chef who has spent years impressing the ramen lovers and converting new legions of ramen lovers. He puts great effort into creating perfect, handcrafted noodles using specific tastes, cuts, and textures that allow each noodle to blossom. The handmade broth perfected by Chef Sakai is based on the Hakata style (from Kyushu); it is slow-cooked, with a creamy-like texture but not heavily laden with oils. In Portland, Marukin serves both the tonkotsu (pork broth) and a unique, thick and creamy chicken-based broth (paitan) with their homemade noodles.
Loudly slurping Marukin’s ramen noodles is highly encouraged to gain a full sensory experience: taste - of course, smell - mixture of air comes with slurping, touch - warm comforting soup, sight - actively enjoying eating in the haze of a steamy bowl on a cold rainy day, sound - the sound of the slurp is joyful, then there’s that lasting comfortable feeling of a good meal...
Masaji Sakai, Executive Chef
Masaji Sakai has been leading the helm for Marukin, one of Tokyo, Japan’s most popular mid-sized specialty ramen chains, since December 2001. Though Marukin Portland is Chef Sakai’s first venture in the United States, he is no stranger to the kitchen.
Chef Sakai has been working his magic in restaurants all over Japan since the early 1970’s. He started as an apprentice at Kamei, a Sushi restaurant in Yotsuya, Japan, where he learned all facets of the sushi industry. After two years of intense training, he was promoted to Sushi Line Cook. In 1979, he moved to Tenmasa, a notably famous group of restaurants in Japan. Chef Sakai worked at the Shinjuku location in Tokyo --one of the country’s hot spots for celebrities, where he had the privilege of cooking for Frank Sinatra and Superman (Christopher Reeve), among many others. After his time at Tenmasa, Chef Sakai spent much of the first half of the 1980s as part of the Professional Chef Association of Tokyo on assignment to many kitchens around the city on temporary basis to assist, build, and instruct.
Eventually, Chef Sakai’s lifelong dream of opening a restaurant of his own became a reality. In 1995, he opened Sakai Japanese Cuisine in Tokyo, a 26-seat restaurant, where he served as owner and chef, until moving to Marukin in 2001. Chef Sakai was tapped to fuel the increased need to ensure Marukin quality, improve food sourcing, and meet evolving taste of ramen aficionados: here is where he created the paitan ramen – a thick chicken based broth.
Chef Sakai has spent the last 14 years at Marukin creating and perfecting new styles of ramen broth and noodles, all of which are locally sourced, in addition to overseeing nine restaurant locations in Tokyo and Yokohama. In Japan, Chef Sakai improved Marukin’s hakata-style tonkotsu ramen a rich, pork-bone based broth that has become synonymous with the Marukin brand. In the states, Chef Sakai will be serving many types including paitan ramen a thicker, creamier chicken-based broth with their homemade noodles, an authentic ramen that he has created specifically for the city of Portland, a city whose interests in ramen has grown exponentially over the last few years.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Chef Sakai, a vintage sports car enthusiast, enjoys taking his Austin-Healey out for a drive.
Portland, Oregon will be Marukin’s tenth and eleventh locations and the first outpost in the United States.
Mayumi Hijikata, Chef
Mayumi Hijikata is one of the opening chefs of Marukin’s first ever location in the United States. Chef Hijikata joins the Marukin family most recently from Aporte, a high-end French and Italian catering company in Kanagawa, Japan, where she served as Head Chef since 2007.
Chef Hijikata’s original gastronomic focus wasn’t in Japanese cuisine. Upon graduating from the Confectionery College at the L'École Culinaire in Kintachi, Japan in 1995, she accepted an apprenticeship as a pâtissier apprentice at La Petite Chaise in Tokyo, Japan, where she mastered the art of French cuisine working under a chef who trained in France. In 2001, her focus shifted to a different European region and she spent the next six years working as Head Chef of Trattoria Al Bacco, a popular restaurant in Tokyo, Japan serving Northern Italian cuisine.
Never having been to the US – this will be an extraordinary adventure for Chef Mayumi!
Marukin's Miraculous Noodle Machine (Portland Mercury, 4/13/16)
The Ramen Map: 10 Bowls to Eat Right Now (Eater, 4/6/16)
Unbeatable Bowls at Marukin Ramen (Portland Monthly, 4/5/16)
10 Reasons Why Marukin's Opening Is Big News for Ramenheads (Eater, 4/1/2016)
Authentic Japanese ramen arrives in Portland (KGW, 4/8/16)
Tokyo's Marukin Ramen Chain Announces Second Portland Location (Eater, 1/19/16)
Japanese ramen chain Marukin opening two Portland shops (Oregon Live, 1/18/16)