Wenzhou Noodle house embraces local history

Carol Chen with her husband, Max Soloviev

We met with Carol Chen and her family today, at Roy’s Coffee and Tea on Jackson Street. Carol is the new owner of the Ken Ying Low building, which locals may remember as the Cuban International Restaurant.

She is from Wenzhou, and her family is in the restaurant business. In fact, her mother plans to help with some secret family recipes. A local resident, she was looking for an investment opportunity. When she was visiting Japantown for sushi, she saw the Ken Ying Low building for sale.

Carol was interested in the restaurant building because of the Chinese connection, which she identified with, and she was interested in the history of the place. Originally, she says, it was a noodle restaurant, and that inspired her to also make this a noodle restaurant.

She plans to build a “history wall” which will desribe the history of the building and of Japantown’s origin as a China town. The noodles will be made on the premises, probably as a public display, space permitting. This was inspired by Mountain View’s Maru Ichi restaurant, where the ramen noodles are made view of the public.¬† Carol plans to bring in some minor architectural features and decorations from China. It’s obvious that she is eager to respect the history of the building and of Japantown.

Carol said that the building has many challenges “from the bottom to the top”. It would have been cheaper tear down the building and start from scratch. The Mills Act assistance from the government will not help much; basically it will shave off 10% from the property tax, but attach many stipulations regarding how the development may proceed.

Carol will seek a building permit early in November. After that, it’s hard to get an idea of the opening date, but she guessed that it should be around July 2014. And we can’t wait to enjoy the noodles in this historic place!

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