Menya Rui brings a Japanese-style noodle shop to St. Louis | Food and Drink News | Saint Louis | St. Louis News and Events

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Cassidy Waigand

Menya Rui brings Chef Steven Pursey’s vision of a traditional Japanese noodle shop to life in St. Louis.

A line waits outside Menya Rui at 4:45 pm on a recent Friday night, 15 minutes before the restaurant opens for regular dinner service. Inside, owner Steven Pursley and his team set up shop, set up the dining room and kitchen, and waited for the rush of diners

“Ten minutes,” Pursley tells his team as the time hits 4:50 p.m.

The final minutes pass and at 17:00 Menya Rui opens. A worker opens the door and directs people to available seats. However, the line outside doesn’t go away and it’s not long before the clerk informs the next group in line that the restaurant is full.

The scene is typical at Menya Rui, the highly anticipated Japanese restaurant that opened April 21 in the former F&B’s Eatery in the city’s Lindenwood Park neighborhood. In a way, the lines are intentional; Menya Rui’s small dining room consists of just two tables and two bar areas – 24 seats in total. According to Pursley, this small size is exactly what he was looking for when he started his restaurant.

click to enlarge Steven Pursley is excited to share what he's learned cooking in Japan with diners in St. Louis.  - Cassidy Waigand

Cassidy Waigand

Steven Pursley is excited to share what he’s learned cooking in Japan with diners in St. Louis.

“Most ramen shops in Japan are this cozy,” says Pursley. “For the most part, they’re right about that like 20 [to] Range of 30 seats. And that’s just a certain feeling that you get when it comes to a cozy environment like that. So, I definitely wanted to bring that aesthetic and that vibe.”

Pursley has firsthand experience with the “aesthetics and vibe” of ramen shops in Japan. His mother is from Okinawa, Japan, and he and her family frequently visited the country where she was born when he was young. Those trips were pivotal for Purely, and in 2013, after graduating from the University of Missouri–St. Louis with a degree in political science and not sure of his next steps, he began to explore the idea of ​​opening a ramen shop. He talked to an uncle in Japan about his plans and contacted the owner of his uncle’s favorite ramen shop to do some research.

“During the three years [I was in Japan], I worked in four different workshops and learned everything from making the soup to tare, which is like the base seasoning; dressings, and even the preparation of the noodles,” says Pursley. “So yes, [from] From a to Z, [I] I learned everything.”

click to enlarge Menya Rui serves a variety of ramen and noodle bowls.  - Cassidy Waigand

Cassidy Waigand

Menya Rui serves a variety of ramen and noodle bowls.

When Pursley returned to the US, he brought with him the knowledge and experience he had gained in Japan and began making pop-ups under the name Ramen x Rui. His goal with the pop-up was threefold: to reacquaint himself with the St. Louis restaurant scene, play around with recipes, and save up for a brick-and-mortar store; As time went on, he began to serve more and more people, showing them that a Japanese-style noodle shop could be successful in his hometown.

Menya Rui, a combination of Pursley’s Japanese name Rui and “menya,” which translates to “noodle shop” in Japanese, has built on the success of its pop-ups. As he explains, the idea was to capture a broader notion of the types of noodle shops he worked in Japan rather than focus on the style best known in St. Louis.

“I think calling myself Menya versus a ramen shop sums up the other styles of noodles I offer and pushes ramen culture forward in the United States,” says Pursley.

click to enlarge Guests line up to try Menya Rui.  - Cassidy Waigand

Cassidy Waigand

Guests line up to try Menya Rui.

To that end, visitors can find ramen at Menya Rui; however, the restaurant also offers tsukemen and mazemen. According to Pursley, both are thicker noodles compared to ramen. He also offers a variety of broths based on his experiences working in Japan. As he explains, the first store he worked at used shoyu broth, which is a soy-flavored soup, as opposed to tonkotsu, a pork bone broth used primarily with ramen. Pursley recommends that people try the pork shoyu ramen when visiting Menya Rui.

“As for the first store I worked in, it had a similar style,” says Pursley. “That was [where] I was like, ‘Oh man, this shit is so hot. “

For those looking to try a different noodle, Pursley recommends the tsukemen, which is thicker cold-rinsed noodles topped with pork shoulder, menma, scallion and nori. Menya Rui also offers a variety of appetizers, including homemade cucumbers and karaage, which is a Japanese style of fried chicken.

click to enlarge Japanese-style fried chicken is one of the restaurant's non-noodle dishes.  - Cassidy Waigand

Cassidy Waigand

Japanese-style fried chicken is one of the restaurant’s non-noodle dishes.

“When you compete in Tokyo, you have to use crazy ingredients and do something wild to stand out, but there aren’t a million ramen shops here,” says Pursley. “So I just needed something basic, the basic food, that I was able to get.”

Menya Rui is currently open Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. Looking ahead, Pursley hopes to increase the number of staff at the restaurant to ensure it doesn’t run out so quickly. In the meantime, he’s happy the concept of him is resonating with St. Louis diners, even if waiting seems deceptively intimidating.

“The people who come, the vast majority, are very happy; they are delighted,” says Pursley. “I’ve had a queue every day. So yeah, I’m grateful. It’s fucking amazing. But don’t do it.” Don’t be afraid of the line. It moves fast.”

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