Dashi, located on Durham’s East Chapel Hill Street, is one of the newer hip restaurants serving up international cuisine. In Dashi’s case, the main dish is ramen. However, any experiences Americans have had with ramen does not quite compare to the ramen experience served at Dashi. Combining both local ingredients and those hailing from Japan, the six ramen bowls available reign supreme in originality.
The environment of the restaurant is nothing less than intimate, the whole restaurant a long, rather thin, single room with two single bathrooms. The wait staff is the cherry on top: their generally calm, helpful and pleasant manner makes even the most picky eaters feel comfortable with Dashi’s menu.
Personally, with catfish and sweet potato featured in several of the bowls, I had some reservations about the menu. After talking with my waitress, however, accommodations were made, unlike many other higher end restaurants.
I ended up ordering the the Mazemen bowl, which is the Italian-Japanese fusion dish; the main ingredients are ramen covered in cream sauce and chili oil, local pork meatballs, rapini and crispy garlic. The bowl tastes as confusing as it sounds, but in the most positive way. The meatballs were tender, the ramen was cooked to the perfect consistency, the chili oil was the perfect source of spice.
If the restaurant still does not pique your interest, there is an izakaya, or Japanese pub, upstairs. It is open in the evening from 5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. on the weekends and serves smaller dishes, such as spicy boiled peanuts and black sesame nori popcorn.
Overall, Dashi welcomes anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone. Those that do will find that while there are some rather obscure-sounding dishes, most of the cuisine available is taste palate friendly.