Ramen Lab, the tiny, standing-only noodle counter that offers up some of the city's best new ramen, has announced a transformation of sorts into an incubator for new ramen shops. The nearly four month old restaurant will stop serving its superlative shoyu and xo miso ramen the first week of May to make room for its first pop-up ramen-ya from Ichicoro Ramen, which will test out its different soup styles on New Yorkers before opening a Tampa, Florida-based shop later this summer.

"We were never set to operate as a restaurant, we wanted to showcase different styles of ramen, and one way to do that was to start off with a very, very classic torigara shoyu ramen that not too many restaurants do," explained Sun Noodle's Vice President of Operations Kenshiro Uki. "A lot of restaurants focus more on tonkotsu, which is really great, but to educate everyone a bit more on different regional styles, we want to start off with the opposite. That really hit off and became popular and we got really busy with that; I think we were too focused on that dish. The perception of a lot of people is that it became a restaurant."

Starting the week of May 11th, the Ichicoro Ramen pop-up will serve "Tampa-style" ramens, including a porky tonkotsu, a vegetable-based offering and a spicy abura soba, a variety of broth-less ramen served with an oily, soy-based sauce. Restaurateur Noel Cruz, who's been linked to several NYC eateries, will be behind the new venture.

"We've seen that people who are first to market actually have a big impact on the ramen scene in their cities," Uki continued. "They have a very talented group of people in their team who, I think, are going to focus a lot on craft: making things from scratch, using local ingredients from their area. And then going to push a lot to educate the people in Tampa about craft ramen, fresh ramen."

"We originally planned for a ramen chef to come in once a month," Uki revealed. "Whether it's two weeks or three weeks, we want to cycle once a month so that they can kinda get their experience and we want to excite our consumers to come in every month and enjoy a different style of ramen." The company is keeping mum about who these new ramen chefs will be, but Uki says they already have a lineup of chefs from both the United States and Japan who are hoping to open ramen-yas here.

"In Japan, if you go to different cities you can see different styles of ramen depending on where you are and what kind of ingredients they can source locally," Uki said in response to what styles he hopes will debut in NYC. "So that's one of our goals and one way it is achieved is to showcase to the consumer that, 'Hey, this ramen shop from Japan is from Sapporo, it's this style, it's miso ramen and the following chef from Japan would be from Sakata.' We'd explain, it's completely different: different noodles, different soup, different toppings."

Uki also says that Ramen Lab still has plans to debut their promised ramen flights to the public; since opening, they've only been offering the flights to other industry folks. "Right now it's a different kitchen from the one in New Jersey, so we're just trying to figure out the rhythm. How many people can we really take to do ramen flights?" he says. "The kitchen guy is just getting used to the new kitchen these days, but we'd love to open it to the public later this year, for everyone."