A fast start for a North Market rising star

Although he studied at the Tokyo Sushi Academy, chef Seigo Nishimura says he wanted to open an authentic ramen shop in Columbus, because it’s what he loves to eat. “Whenever we go back to my hometown, I just eat ramen every day,” says Nishimura, who’s from Hachioji, Japan. 

The day before Satori opened on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2019, a transformer blew in the North Market, leaving all vendors without power for several hours. Nishimura lost almost all of the prep work his small team had done over three days, including his tonkatsu ramen’s signature 12-hour pork broth. 

To get through its grand opening, Nishimura used a pressure cooker to make chicken broth for his paitan ramen, though not nearly enough of it. Satori opened at noon on the first day with a small menu and sold out by 1:30 p.m. 

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“He was sleeping 30 minutes a night for the first two weeks, I think,” says Nishimura’s wife and business partner, Casey Cooper-Fenske. “We doubled our staff in the first month, because we just didn’t realize how ridiculously busy it would be.”

Despite its travails, the ramen shop now offers four types of ramen (with a miso ramen on the way) and has been the North Market’s top seller for prepared foods since it opened, says executive director Rick Harrison Wolfe.

Applause is warranted for Satori’s attractive stall design and layout, allowing customers to hunker over their bowls at the counter, you know, like a proper noodle bar. 

Grab a seat and start with the perfectly cooked karaage. Four soy sauce-marinated chicken thighs are coated in potato starch, fried and then paired with a ginger-garlic-scallion dipping sauce. You’ll forget Roosters exists.

You can’t go wrong either with the super-rich tonkatsu ramen, topped with chashu (pork belly), wood ear mushrooms, a soft-boiled egg, pickled ginger, green onions and sesame seeds. For something spicier, the same pork broth base is used in the Kara Zapow ramen. Vegetarian ramen and gluten-free noodle options are also available. 

When I asked whether Satori may add sushi someday, it wasn’t out of the question. “The goal is to do all of the things that Seigo wants to eat,” says Cooper-Fenske.

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