Oni Reaper ramen at Oni Ramen, Jesus Garcia's soon-to-open shop in Fort Worth. The "demon-spiced" dish, garnished with pork belly, bean sprouts, spicy corn on the cob, shredded leeks and soft-boiled egg, features thick noodles in a miso broth flavored with Carolina Reaper and other peppers.

Oni Reaper ramen at Oni Ramen, Jesus Garcia's soon-to-open shop in Fort Worth. The "demon-spiced" dish, garnished with pork belly, bean sprouts, spicy corn on the cob, shredded leeks and soft-boiled egg, features thick noodles in a miso broth flavored with Carolina Reaper and other peppers.

Oni Ramen

Chef Jesus Garcia has spent the last two years learning everything he could about ramen and ramen culture: from various styles from different regions in Japan, to how to make a different types of broth, to how to make noodles. Now Garcia, who first made a splash on the North Texas dining scene as head chef at Little Lilly Sushi, which he helped earn four stars in a review in 2013, is just about ready to let us taste the results of all that effort. He plans to open a ramen bar, Oni Ramen, in Fort Worth's West 7th District  on Aug. 4. 

The place has the potential to be hot — in more ways than one. "Oni means demon or ogre," says Garcia, "and one of our big things will be doing spicy ramen." To wit, his signature dish, Oni Reaper, will feature a miso broth flavored with Carolina Reaper, said to be the hottest chile pepper in the world.  "It's really spicy," he says. But the dish won't be impossibly hot, he adds: "We'll make it in a way that we're building more on the flavor" of the chile. He's garnishing the dish with pork belly, bean sprouts, shredded leeks, soft-boiled egg and spicy corn on the cob — "inspired by Mexican elote instead of typically bland corn kernels in most miso broths."

Straight Outta Kyushu ramen from Oni Ramen in Fort Worth. This is Oni's take on Kyushu Island tonkotsu ramen -- it's a rich, salt-seasoned broth with pork belly, thin noodles, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onion, mustard greens and soft boiled egg.

Straight Outta Kyushu ramen from Oni Ramen in Fort Worth. This is Oni's take on Kyushu Island tonkotsu ramen -- it's a rich, salt-seasoned broth with pork belly, thin noodles, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onion, mustard greens and soft boiled egg.

Oni Ramen

But Oni Ramen  isn't only about spicy heat.  Garcia is also excited about a light broth he'll be featuring, made with chicken and fish. "In Japan, it's more popular to do a clear soup," he says, than the rich, creamy, pork-bone broth so popular in the U.S. now.  But he'll feature that type, too.  

Oni Ramen chef-owner Jesus Garcia

Oni Ramen chef-owner Jesus Garcia

Oni Ramen

Oni's menu will be based on a build-your-own bowl idea. You'll choose a broth (miso, salt or soy), decide how rich you'd like it (light, rich or a blend) and specify a spice level (no spice, a little, more heat or a lot of fire). Then choose a noodle, whether a "thin noodle, which is usually more compatible with a thick broth,"  or the "thicker, curlier noodle that's usually more associated with the light broth." He'll also offer whole wheat. Then add garnishes: The bowls come with green onion and sesame seeds, and you can add meats, vegetables or both. 

Then there will be four specialty bowls: that spicy Oni Reaper, plus three others, along with build-your-own poke (salmon or tuna), appetizers (gyozas, baked bun sandwiches, kara-age, edamame) and a couple of salads.  To drink: Japanese craft beers, and a full bar — "for the college crowd," says Garcia. 

Tuna poke at Oni Ramen in Fort Worth: spicy diced big eye tuna with avocado and black tobiko on a base of brown rice. Optional toppings are shown around it: mango; radish; carrot; cherry tomato; jalapeno; and house-made kimchi.

Tuna poke at Oni Ramen in Fort Worth: spicy diced big eye tuna with avocado and black tobiko on a base of brown rice. Optional toppings are shown around it: mango; radish; carrot; cherry tomato; jalapeno; and house-made kimchi.

Oni Ramen

After Garcia left Little Lilly Sushi in 2014, he moved to Seattle, where he worked at Santouka, a renowned ramen shop. He returned to Dallas in 2015 with plans to open a ramen house in Richardson, but his lease fell through, he says. "I was disappointed; I love the Richardson area. But Fort Worth is not a bad trade-off." 

Although he had initially planned on making his own noodles — and studied noodle-making in Japan — Garcia has been unable to source flour he's happy with. So for now, he'll be using noodles that Kobayashi Seimen — the same supplier Santouka uses — makes in Torrance, Calif.  "After tasting a whole bunch of noodles," he says, "I fell in love with the Kobayashi."

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