The storefront at 2009 Highland Ave. has been a noodle and dumpling restaurant, a vegan cafe and a sandwich shop, all in just over three short years.
Now, a new restaurant is moving into the space, and its co-owners Jonathan Chiu, whose parents own Oriental House on Shelbyville Road, and Jonathan Ham, who has worked in restaurants since he was 18, believe it will stick.
“It’s right in the middle of everything, and we wanted a spot in the Highlands,” Chiu said.
It isn’t unprecedented for a spot in the area to overcome a rapid turnover in businesses. El Taco Luchador has operated successfully for more than four years at 938 Baxter Ave., a property that some previously deemed cursed, and is now expanding at that address.
Chiu and Ham plan to open Ramen Inochi, a ramen soup-focused eatery, in mid-March. The restaurant will offer a short menu of ramen bowls with pork bone, sea salt, miso and soy sauce broths and appetizers such as gyoza, edamame and pork belly buns. It will seat 28.
“We are trying to do something extremely well,” Ham said, rather than cooking lots of dishes that are good or only OK.
Ramen Inochi will stick mostly to traditional recipes, but it also will offer special fusion bowls and some twists on the classics, he added. “We want the traditional things because those are delicious.”
While pricing is still in the works, Chiu and Ham estimated that customers could eat their fill for $15 to $20. Ramen Inochi will be open for dinner throughout the week and dinner and late night dining on the weekends.
Ham said he and Chiu talked about opening a restaurant and focusing almost exclusively on ramen while in Las Vegas, where Ham lived at the time, for Chiu’s bachelor party. Las Vegas, Ham said, is littered with ramen shops.
“We’re trying to bring that ramen culture here,” Ham said, calling ramen the next big trend.
But don’t get the ramen Chiu and Ham plan to serve confused with those $1 or less Top Ramen packages that college students live off.
“It’s broth that has been cooking for hours,” Chiu said, adding that it takes love and care to make.
While ramen is trendy in larger cities now and seems to be making its way to Louisville, Ham said he thinks ramen shops could become a staple of the local culinary scene.