The ramen trend is still in its early stages in Dallas-Fort Worth; compared to other cities, we're tragically under-ramened. But that'll change with the opening of Wabi House, an izakaya-style restaurant opening on Greenville Avenue this spring.
The restaurant comes from Dien "Chef D" Nguyen, head chef at Texas-wide sushi chain Piranha Killer Sushi, and Piranha owner and chef Kenzo Tran, who also owns Pho District in Fort Worth. The rather shy Chef D has worked with Tran for 10 years, helping open branches in Tarrant County, Austin and San Antonio.
After discovering that food was his passion, Chef D devoted all of his spare time to the study of it. With Tran's blessing, Chef D traveled to other cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, to work and experience different food cultures, often for months at a time.
"Lower Greenville is the perfect place because it fits the style of what we're going to do," says Dien "Chef D" Nguyen.
Wabi House is derived from wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy that embraces imperfection. Chef D says that he loves Japanese cuisine because of the delicacy and intricate details involved in making and presenting the food.
"I'm obsessed with izakaya-style food," he says. "I've always worked at Japanese restaurants, and I love ramen. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, something casual where people could come in have small plates and enjoy good, tasty ramen.
"Everywhere I've been, it's so popular. I feel like we're missing that right now."
Our ramen options so far include Tei An at One Arts Plaza, Tanoshii in Deep Ellum, Ramen Hakata in North Dallas and Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya in Fort Worth. There is also Ten, chef Teiichi Sakurai's ramen place opening soon at Sylvan Thirty.
But Nguyen and Tran felt that Greenville Avenue, which is home to one of the city's most robust dining scenes, was the ideal spot. "Lower Greenville is the perfect place because it fits the style of what we're going to do," he says.
They're taking over the space that was previously World Piece Cafe, with décor that will follow the namesake philosophy of appreciating the building's age and imperfections. They're working on the renovation and hope to be up and running by May; they'll post progress reports on the Wabi House Facebook page.
It'll be open late at night, with four to five ramen options, but also dishes that allow Chef D to push the limits and serve things not seen too often here.
"Things like grilled shrimp with tamarind paste glaze and sweet corn-off-the-cob fritters," he says. "I want to make it where it caters to more than just ramen eaters. It'll be a lot of stuff I love to cook, and I hope everybody's going to love it."