FARGO—Keng Dechawuth doesn't mind if customers slurp their way through a meal at his new restaurant. In fact, he's encouraging it.
Dechawuth and business partner Kitt Singbut opened downtown Fargo's first full ramen restaurant, Slurp Ramen, last month, adding another culinary option to a space full of exotic flavors.
Slurp Ramen is now open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at a small counter inside 623 NP Ave., an old building where Dechawuth has run Wasabi sushi restaurant and Drunken Noodle noodle and pasta shop for several years. The building has also hosted a poke bar serving up the Hawaiian fish, rice and vegetable dish.
It's a small new offering, with three varieties of ramen, three other noodle soups and four appetizers on the menu.
But Dechawuth said it seems to have resonated with downtown diners, especially those looking for a savory, filling meal as the weather gets colder.
Ramen, a Japanese soup made with wheat noodles and served in a meat-based or fish-based broth, has become a trendy cuisine in recent years in other cities across the country. Dechawuth said it took longer to catch on in America than other noodle dishes, such as pad thai, but he said it's time for his favorite noodle dish to get some attention.
"It's something that I really wanted," he said.
Not everything on the menu at Slurp Ramen is a true ramen dish, including the sukothai, which combines rice noodles in a spicy and sour soup with pork, spring onions, bean sprouts and cilantro.
Many of the bowls that sell for $9 start with pork bone broth but take on different flavors depending on the spices, toppings and meat that's added, Dechawuth said.
Shoyu seems to be the most popular variety so far, with a piece of panko-fried chicken on top of a bowl of noodles in a soy sauce soup.
One thing not on the menu, at least yet, is a vegetarian ramen. Dechawuth said ramen tends to get its umami, or perfectly balanced savory taste, based on slow cooking of the broth that starts with pork bones.
He said the kitchen hasn't yet been able to perfect a vegetarian version with the right balance of flavors, but he hopes that will be available soon.
If the addition of a small ramen shop to the building seems more like a pop-up eatery than a full-fledged new business, that's because it is in some ways.
Dechawuth and his business partners are now preparing to move out of this building along NP Avenue sometime next year.
Wasabi will take over the middle unit of 123 Broadway N., the former Metro Drug building that Kilbourne Group is now renovating and splitting up into three spaces. Wasabi will be joined in that spot, which will face Second Avenue North, by a Poke Bowl counter.
Drunken Noodle and Slurp Ramen, meanwhile, will move to another Kilbourne Group-owned property at 414 Broadway, which formerly served as a Navy recruiter's office. That building is also undergoing a renovation and will get a rooftop patio by the time it opens next year.
Until those downtown moves can happen next year, Slurp Ramen will keep busy serving up its savory comfort food out of its NP Avenue base.
Speaking of the name, Dechawuth said it might sound gross because slurping is generally considered rude or inappropriate behavior at the table. But slurping noodles in Japan is actually encouraged as a way to signify to cooks that the diner enjoys the meal.
What: Slurp Ramen
Where: 623 NP Ave., Fargo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
Phone: (701) 232-3380