Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Owners of ramen restaurant Tanoshii have a “bowl” in Deep Ellum
Slurping is totally allowed.
“This is the best photo shoot ever.”
Tanoshii co-owner Chi Le is slurping – yes, slurping, and unabashedly at that – over a bowl of Shoyu Ramen while her husband Joey Le sits next to her doing the same to a bowl of Spicy Miso Ramen. These aren’t poses as the camera clicks away; this husband and wife duo are diving in to these noodles full bore. Even ownership of a restaurant can’t make the Les weary of the ramen at Deep Ellum’s five-month old noodle shop, where mural-adorned walls, lively music and a full, active bar accompany the noodles and Japanese plates that the couple spent months developing and perfecting.
“Tanoshii to us is our passion, I mean with all of our restaurants, this one is in particular because we felt like Dallas was missing a true ramen house,” says Chi, who along with Joey also owns Miss Chi Vietnamese and Wicked Po’ Boys. “So we set out to learn the ramen - over the years we’ve traveled to Japan and eaten it, and it’s not your typical college-day ramen for 50 cents and to get through the night!”
While the ramen at Tanoshii may help people get through the night – it is, after all, in the middle of Deep Ellum – its dishes are indeed a far cry from the freeze-dried packets of noodles Chi references. There are seven different styles of the noodle dish available, as well as non-noodle options such as Banh Xeo – "sizzling crepes" – roasted bone marrow and three different styles of steamed buns among the choices. The menu as more varied than a traditional noodle house might be in Japan, but given the environment and the atmosphere that the Les wanted to create, they put their own touch on the restaurant.
“It’s not a traditional ramen house; what you would usually get is more of a "fast-food" type ramen in Japan – it’s really quick. But we wanted to bring more energy to our restaurant so we made more of a ramen restaurant; we kind of put our twist on certain things to just accommodate people with different taste buds,” Chi notes. “What we envisioned it to be is exactly what would fit perfectly in Deep Ellum. We want that energy that Deep Ellum has in our restaurant, and we felt like it would be such a great addition to Deep Ellum, and we think they really do compliment each other.”
Even the late-night menu is a tip of the cap to the Deep Ellum revelers, but ultimately Tanoshii is about the noodles. Big bowls of noodles with different broths dot the tables at the restaurant at any given service time; comfort food may mean different dishes across cultures, and whatever the definition may be, ramen is certainly included. And just like anything worth while, it takes plenty of time and know-how to do it justice.
“Good ramen needs to have the right noodles. It has to have the right texture, the right flavor, and the right color. There are different ways that you can cook them, obviously, to where it’s a lot firmer, or somebody might want it a little softer, but at the end of the day you’re noodles should be al dente, where there’s a little bit of springiness to it,” Joey observes. “And the broth. Broth is very important. We cook ours for at least 20 hours. And so, it’s almost a science. There’s really no short cuts, no “Hey, let’s try to make ramen in like three hours!” It just won’t be the same.”
And it doesn’t just take a long time to cook. The research the Les put into it was significant; it took months of trial and error before they decided on the styles and recipes that Tanoshii would offer. It’s become a bit of a habit for the pair, who took on a different style of regional dishes with Wicked Po’ Boys and then again with Miss Chi.
“Projects are more fun when they’re focused, and I think people appreciate instead of doing a ton of things in one restaurant you’re really focusing on a certain thing,” Chi notes. “You know, you can have your different other things that accent what you are, but I appreciate somewhere that really focuses on a certain thing.”
And if noodles are that certain thing for Tanoshii, that begs the question – for a dish whose popularity in Dallas is quickly on the rise, what’s the acceptability of slurping?
“Of course slurping is acceptable. We love it when we hear it, and we especially love it when they pick up their bowl and just finish everything off,” Chi says with a laugh. “It’s like, we just want to snap pictures because it’s so exciting and you don’t get to see that in restaurants much. We want people to feel comfortable and to have a nice time, but also to be able to just get down and really enjoy everything that’s in the bowl.”
As the camera clicks away, it seems the two are merely giving a demonstration on how it’s done.
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