06 Aug Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Ramen Kotori in Solvang, CA
Last summer I wrote a story entitled From Kitschy to Cool, Solvang, California in which I noted that Solvang is transitioning from a kitschy town to cool wine country destination with many new restaurants, wine bars, and hotels. But I left out one place, Ramen Kotori, this week’s Please The Palate pick of the week.
Once most famous for it aebleskivers, Solvang is filled with restaurants serving seasonal menus with fresh, local ingredients. Beyond modern American cuisine, there are also a few Italian restaurants. But Ramen Kotori is the first and only ramen shop in Solvang. And they do not just serve ramen! They also have daily specials made with ingredients found at Solvang’s weekly farmer’s market. And they source fish and seafood from Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish.
Ramen Kokori is owned by husband and wife team, Francisco and Erica Velazquez who met while working together in San Diego at the Marine Room, the flagship restaurant of The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. From San Diego they moved to Napa Valley and worked at Michelin starred restaurant La Toque, as well as Iron Chef Morimoto’s Morimoto Napa. They then moved to Sonoma County and worked at Ramen Gaijin, a small ramen shop in Sebastopol, California that they helped grow into a Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded ramen shop and izakaya.
Erica and Francisco moved to the Santa Ynez Valley and opened Ramen Kotori in March 2019. Luckily, I learned about Ramen Kokori when I met Francisco while dining at a restaurant in Los Olivos this past week. Closed on Monday and Tuesday as Francisco and Erica were celebrating their anniversary. But they were open on Wednesday, my final night in wine country, so I was determined to eat there.
The food at Ramen Kokori is exceptionally fresh and flavorful. I decided not to order ramen, and instead ordered off the izakaya menu. They had just been to the Solvang farmers’ market that morning and had received a fresh delivery of fish, including blue fin tuna, and sea urchin from Stephanie.
The Gyoza were stuffed with pork and cabbage. The gyoza skins were light and tender with just enough of a sear on them.
The Spicy Tuna Handrolls were filled avocado, cucumber and fresh tuna chopped up and mixed with a spicy mayo sauce.
The Poke Rice Bowl was made with the freshly caught blue fin tuna on top of rice with roe, seaweed, and cucumber.
Ramen Kokori offers fresh and delicious flavors but also something different for Solvang. The atmosphere is casual, and you can also order food to go. They also offer a selection of wines, beers, and boba. I have a feeling that, like Bob’s Well Bread, Ramen Kokori will become a mandatory stop on every future visit to the Santa Ynez Valley.