Tokyo native and revered chef and owner Ken Tominaga of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County has established himself as one of the Bay Area's leading authorities on Japanese cuisine. Tominaga’s evolving menu is based on the core principles of using only the highest quality, freshest fish and incorporating the best local produce.
While growing up in Japan, Tominaga’s parents fully immersed him in the city's vibrant dining scene. He started his apprenticeship at an early age and quickly fell in love with the culinary world. Throughout high school, he worked his way up in restaurants, first as a dishwasher, then as a prep cook, often catching a few hours sleep before returning to class.
After graduation, Tominaga moved to California to join his family's business, an optics company in Santa Rosa. The local restaurants and the influence of French, Italian, and Chinese cuisine began to steer his culinary point of view. When his family sold their business, he seized the opportunity to return to his first love, cooking, and he headed to Tokyo to attend the Akasaka Cooking School. By day, he learned to cook everything from tempura to udon. By night, he frequented his favorite sushi restaurants, studying the work of the sushi masters he'd known since he was a boy. Coaxing them to reveal recipes and tips, Ken would then adapt their secrets to reflect his personal style, while still representing authentic Japanese tradition.
Tominaga opened Hana Japanese Restaurant in 1990, developing a devoted, cult following among fellow chefs and the local restaurant industry. Media accolades followed, and the San Francisco Chronicle called it “one of the best restaurants in all of Sonoma County.” Tominaga saw the opening of Hana in Rohnert Park as a continuation of his learning process, and he works every day to refine his cuisine. It is that same attention to detail that Ken brings to The Ramen Bar, a partnership with celebrated chef and founder of Mina Group, Michael Mina.
Mina and Tominaga met 10 years ago when Mina visited Hana on the recommendation of one of his chefs. Mina fell in love with Ken’s inventive omakase menu, and it was not long before Mina and his family became regulars at Hana. The two chefs developed a friendship and a mutual admiration for one another’s craft, and they began plans to collaborate on a Japanese concept. When the coveted 101 California Street location became available, the partners jumped on it for the location of The Ramen Bar, as well as the location of their modern Japanese Izakaya, PABU.
“In Japan, ramen is culture. It is a style of Japanese cuisine built around community and made with love. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation and style. My ramen is Tokyo-style, and I couldn’t be more excited to share these flavors, and my recipes, with San Francisco,” says Tominaga.
The Ramen Bar will spotlight Tokyo-style inspired recipes with signature ramen bowls prepared with fresh noodles, a choice of homemade broths, proteins and an abundance of freshly grown vegetables and greens. Tominaga will be joined in the kitchen with Culinary Manager Paul Piscopo to create his unique ramen experience.