The vibrant downtown Durham dining scene promises to get even brighter next summer, when an ambitious new Japanese restaurant called Dashi is slated to open. Partners in the project are Billy and Kelli Cotter, owners of the popular sandwich shop Toast, and Rochelle Johnson and Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, who operate the business incubator and pop-up venue The Cookery.
Actually, Dashi is two restaurants - one of which will pick up on the ramen noodle shop trend that has been sweeping the nation - and a bar rolled into one.
According to Rochelle Johnson, the partners are very close to signing a lease on a 3300 square foot two-story property inside the downtown loop. The main floor will be a traditional ramen shop with an open kitchen where patrons can watch handmade noodles being made.
For those whose only experience with ramen noodles is the packets of instant ramen that fueled them through college, Hawthorne-Johnson has some advice: banish that image. “Comparing our ramen bowls to instant ramen is like comparing instant coffee to an expertly crafted latte made from artisan roasted beans,” he says.
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On the second floor, an izakaya (think gastropub, Japanese style) will feature small plates and an extensive selection of sake and its higher-proof cousin shochu. The bar will also offer craft cocktails, wine and beer - including a Japanese style beer custom-brewed for the restaurant by local brewer Ponysaurus.