Maria and Ricardo Hernandez moved to Gilroy from Cupertino, a town with noodle restaurants aplenty. Luckily for them and other lovers of ramen, they have a new place with authentic Japanese fare that satisfies their cravings.
“It’s hard to find a good ramen place and this place is one of the best,” says Maria, 36.
That place is the Japanese restaurant Ten Japan in Hecker Pass Plaza at 1340 First Street, Suite C, in Gilroy.
Ten Japan, open four years now, shut its doors to renovate this past spring. Owners Jo and Akiko Shiihara wanted to create a new feel to their restaurant and decided to install a sushi bar.
Bamboo at the entry sets the tone for the restaurant and the walls, now painted sleek black, are adorned with colorful abstract metal art that make the room pop. Finally, pendant lights hanging over the sushi bar and each table for two make for a relaxed ambiance.
Now diners can enjoy their sushi and ramen while groovin’ to techno house beats or feelin’ irie with some reggae rhythms for the lunch crowd.
Jo Shiihara, 44, noticed that many Japanese restaurants in the area didn’t have traditionally trained chefs making authentic Japanese cuisine. He said he felt compelled to show Gilroy what good Japanese food should taste like.
Jo is a classically trained French chef who worked in Tokyo’s famous Figaro Restaurant for 11 years.
He and Akiko moved from Santa Barbara, where Jo worked as a chef at Arigato Sushi.
Jo says that a unique aspect of his food is great sauces, which he attributes to his training in French cuisine.
Kayla Fernandez, 20, is one of the servers at the restaurant and says that among the most popular items on the menu are the garlic edamame ($5.50) and the miso ramen ($9.75) with thick wavy noodles in a miso soup that begins with a pork bone broth base.
The result is a creamy dish that is savory, but not overly salty. It’s prepared with sliced chashu, cabbage, bamboo shoots and topped with scallions, chopped spinach and sweet corn.
In addition to nigiri and sashimi, Kayla says other big sellers include Ten Japan’s butterfly roll ($9.50) and two speciality rolls: the 49er ($13.50) and the Lethal Weapon ($13.50).
Even if you’re not a Niners fan, the 49er roll is a palate pleaser with shrimp tempura, avocado, mango, salmon and tuna. It’s topped with crunchy tempura flakes and the sweet and cool flavors of the mango and avocado are balanced by a spicy aioli sauce.
Our party accepted most of Kayla’s suggestions and next on our list to try was the Lethal Weapon. Not surprisingly, this specialty roll packed some heat—made with spicy tuna, salmon, yellowtail, fresh cucumber and jalapeño pepper. The Lethal Weapon was topped with tempura flakes and plated with habanero sauce alongside the chef’s spicy aioli.
Customer Chris Pacheco, 31, of Gilroy says “the sushi is better than anywhere else and the service is great.”
Ten Japan is a quaint but swanky little place. The staff is relatively small and the restaurant fills up quickly. Jo Shiihara is proud to bring these flavors to Gilroy. “I love to hear the customers are impressed and say thank you to the chefs,” he says.
Ten Japan Ramen and Sushi, 1340 First Street Suite C, Gilroy, CA.