Photography by Kathy Tran.
Chef Dien Nguyen of Wabi House isn’t fazed by the new ramen restaurant opening across the street. The competition makes him proud. Nguyen opened Wabi House about four years ago when there wasn’t much of a ramen scene in Dallas. Now the ramen revolution is blossoming into something special.
“I went to a lot of cities to get ideas: New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle,” Nguyen says. “When I travel, ramen restaurants have a lot of Asian customers, but Wabi is so diverse. I’ve seen everybody. People bring kids and older people — people of all races and backgrounds.”
Wabi House focuses on quality over quantity. Its menu is concise and features equal parts ramen and small, shareable plates. The chef was inspired by the communal feeling of Japanese pubs and wanted to bring that to his restaurant with an assortment of pork croquettes, bone marrow shiitake and shishito peppers. The focused menu allows Nguyen to control the quality of the food because making ramen is such a time-intensive process.
DID YOU KNOW?
The chef’s most popular dishes are spicy miso ramen and Karaage, a Japanese fried chicken.
What makes ramen a labor of love? Sure, it’s just noodles and broth, but that requires 60 pounds of pork bones and 18 hours of cooking. The bones and aromatics get cooked for eight hours in the morning. Pork belly gets added for creaminess, and then the mixture continues to cook for 10 hours overnight. In the morning, the broth is strained, and the process starts again. Nguyen thinks the effort is worth it.
“We don’t shortcut a lot of steps,” he says. “That’s why customers enjoy it. If you do it the right way, it translates.”
The menu at Wabi House hasn’t changed much in the four years it’s been open, partially to keep the quality consistent, but also because customers have been receptive to the dishes.
“People try almost everything,” Nguyen says. “When I first did it, there were a lot of things I thought people wouldn’t eat, but they try everything.”
Wabi House has been popular enough for owners to expand to Fort Worth, but Nguyen is arguably more excited about the competing ramen restaurants in the neighborhood.
“I just really wanted people to know ramen,” he says. “I never did it for money or anything. I just wanted to make Dallas a thriving ramen scene.”
11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-midnight
Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
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