Durham has recently welcomed Dashi, a traditional Japanese ramen shop and izakaya (Japanese pub), into its restaurant family. As one who had only tasted the instant, dehydrated noodle version of ramen, this was an entirely new experience.
As soon as we walked in from the chilly outdoors, we were greeted by the savory aromas of a warm bowl of ramen. One of the owners, Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, described to us how each of the different broths cooked for a minimum of 10 hours, contributing to the wonderful smell that is always present in the restaurant.
After perusing the six different ramen offered, we ordered the tonkotsu and the shio. The tonkotsu was recommended by our server, so we had to try it. The pork belly in the tonkotsu was flavorful but not too fatty, and the soy egg was well-prepared. Our addition of avocado complemented the other flavors of ginger and scallions very well (and let’s face it: are there any meals that aren’t improved by the addition of avocado?). The tonkotsu’s wonderfully rich and full broth made it our favorite of the night.
The shio had a more mild, chicken based broth. Yet, the menu’s description of the dish as “reminding us of Japan’s reliance on the sea” was spot on—the salty seaweed in the broth tasted like the ocean, but in a good way. Although the chicken and North Carolina catfish kamaboko (a pureed Japanese fish cake) were enjoyable, I would still choose the pork belly in the tonkotsu any day.
The noodles, however, were perfectly cooked. Traditional ramen chefs believe that after five minutes of being immersed in broth, the noodles overcook. So, we did our best to slurp them down as fast as possible, as Dashi recommends. Given the relatively huge portions, however, we never made it to the bottom of either of our bowls.
Not finishing our ramen turned out to be wise choice. Make sure to stick around for dessert and choose from the daily ice cream flavors, all made by The Parlour in Durham.We finished the meal with a plum sake sorbet. It was tangy and refreshing, and we could taste both the fresh plums and the sake. It was the perfect end to a hearty meal.
This is definitely a place every Durham food lover must check out. The dedication to the authenticity of Japanese ramen is something I haven’t seen in any other Asian restaurant in the Triangle. But be sure to get there early! Dashi doesn’t take reservations, and there are lots of people hungry for ramen.
If you’re hungry for more Asian food: