The Tonkotsu bowl is a signature dish at Ultra House in Langley. Its made pork bone broth and topped with pork slices, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and a black garlic oil. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

The Tonkotsu bowl is a signature dish at Ultra House in Langley. Its made pork bone broth and topped with pork slices, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and a black garlic oil. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Restaurant owner recreating his childhood with ramen house

Denis Zimmermann, who grew up in Japan, switched careers to open his own restaurant in Langley.

LANGLEY — Denis Zimmermann said he’s not re-inventing the wheel with his ramen restaurant.

“Most any mother in Japan can make this food,” he said.

Zimmermann, owner of Ulta House in downtown Langley, grew up in Japan and moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. His father was a commercial pilot with Japan Airlines; his mother a flight attendant with the airline.

Many of Zimmermann’s family members still live in Japan. When he went back to visit his brother in 2017, he got an idea: Leave his career in advertising and graphic design and start a new business.

He said his restaurant is his way of sharing all the things that he loved from his childhood growing up in Japan.

“I just missed the feeling of what it’s like to be in Japan — the food, the culture, the little streets, the little shops,” he said. “I think it was time for me to reconnect with that,” he said.

Ultra House opened in May. The ramen restaurant features the food and drinks Zimmermann grew up eating. It’s his self-described “portal to Japan.”

Denis Zimmermann sells snacks and beverages he used to eat as a kid growing up in Japan at Ultra House. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Denis Zimmermann sells snacks and beverages he used to eat as a kid growing up in Japan at Ultra House. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Ramen is the star of the menu and Ultra House offers six bowls — including one vegetarian item that can be made vegan.

The ramen bowls feature pork bone base and chicken or vegetable broth, and come with a variety mix-ins like pork slices, spinach, bean sprouts, nori and shiitake mushrooms. For those who have not tried ramen before, the shoyu bowl has “milder flavors” and is topped with chicken oil, Zimmermann said.

He said the people’s choice is the spicy miso bowl, which is topped with a spicy chili oil. A bowl costs $14.

Also on the menu are gyoza, bento boxes, rice bowls and onigiri (Japanese rice balls wrapped in seaweed), as well as imported beers and sakes.

The restaurant also has a wide selection of brightly packaged snacks and non-alcoholic beverages that one could find in most grocery stores and vending machines in Japan. Zimmermann also is stocked up on Japanese canned coffees and teas.

Gordy Fredrickson of Freeland said the food is authentic and really delicious. “I keep coming back to the (tonkotsu bowl),” he said.

Shai Steiner of Clinton said she’s happy the ramen house moved in. “There aren’t a lot of ethnic restaurants in town,” Steiner said. She said she likes the spicy miso bowl the best.

Ultra House sells different flavors of onigri, which are Japanese rice balls wrapped in seaweed. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Ultra House sells different flavors of onigri, which are Japanese rice balls wrapped in seaweed. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Denis’ wife, Cheryl “Cherub” Zimmermann, who was the owner of Living Green Natural Food and Apothecary in Langley for more than a decade, has reopened her apothecary in the back of her husband’s restaurant. (They met at the Burning Man festival in Nevada, then married and moved to Langley 13 years ago.)

She said his training as an art director really shows through the design of the restaurant, from the walls to the menus.

Customer Shai Steiner agrees. “This is art food,” Steiner said of the ramen’s colorful presentation.

Zimmermann said he has had customers ask him if he will expand to Oak Harbor.

His response? Right now, he just wants to focus on doing the restaurant thing right in Langley, but “anything’s possible at this point.”

If you go

What: Ultra House

Where: 221 Second St., Langley

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

More: 360-221-4959 or www.ultrahouse.us

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