The Twin Cities’ newest ramen shop – Tori Ramen – has experienced some delays not unfamiliar to restaurant openings, but chef/owner Jason Dorweiler says the restaurant WILL open on its new date, Oct. 15, come heck or high water.
“Or else I’ll have to rob a bank or something, I don’t know,” Dorweiler joked. “We can’t go any longer than that because we’re not bringing in any income; we’re just focusing on the restaurant, trying to get it open.”
Originally, the debut was slated for September, but unexpectedly high state fees strained the shop’s funding. Now, Dorweiler and Co. are waiting for loans to be approved in order to continue with the buildout at 161 Victoria St. N in St. Paul, which is nearly complete.
“We’re ready,” Dorweiler said. “We’re excited.”
Since he and partner Asiya Persaud – she’ll be handling front-of-the-house duties – are gridlocked in terms of the space, Dorweiler is spending the extra time continuing to tweak his unique pork-less ramen recipes.
Yep, that’s right, Tori Ramen will be an entirely pork-free ramen shop, focusing instead on poultry varieties. And Dorweiler – who previously worked as a consultant at Ippindo Ramen House and Domo Gastro, and as the general manager and chef of Unideli at United Noodles – is not apologizing. Not only is he eschewing the ingredient perhaps only second best known to the dish, next to noodles, he’s doing so with pretty lofty goals.
“My aim is to be the best ramen shop,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until I reach that achievement.”
Dorweiler has been toying with the idea of opening such a ramen shop since his days at United Noodles in 2012-14, when he started receiving a lot of requests for pork-less ramen. He’s been working on perfecting his product ever since.
“There are a lot of people who want pork-free [ramen]” he said. “That’s clear. We also wanted to do something different, something people wouldn’t typically associate ramen with being.”
Like with traditional ramen, the Dorweiler’s foundation is a well-nurtured broth. He boils the bones for 20-plus hours to achieve similar complexity and richness. Then comes the chashu, with variations made from chicken and duck, thinly sliced.
The menu at tiny Tori – with just 700 square feet total, there will be about 25 table seats and a seven-seat bar -- will consist entirely of ramen, in ten forms (a vegetarian option is included). The restaurant will serve wine, beer and house made kombucha as well.
“You can do the same things with chicken as you can with pork, without the gaminess,” Dorweiler said. “And I think it’s way better.”
Feeling doubtful? Dorweiler is salivating for the challenge.
“I confused myself when I cooked it,” he said. “It tastes very similar. The texture is spot on. If people don’t know that it’s going to be pork free, they might think there is still pork in there.”
(Above photo from Unideli, by Courtney Perry)