The Dojo, Austin's first proper izakaya—a Japanese pub, recognizable by the red lanterns hanging outside their doorways—is tentatively set to open this July in the former Tokyo Steakhouse space at Highway 183 and Burnet Road. One of the folks behind the project is Mike "The Ramen Ninja" Elliott, he of the Nommin' Noodles truck that saw a test run during SXSW earlier this year. The Dojo will open in time for after-work drinks and serve food into the wee hours, targeting the after-bar crowd and service industry folks.
"I really love the late-night crowd," Elliott told Eater Austin in an interview earlier this summer. "We're going to have sake, cocktails, just give people the room to relax." From the Dojo's official Facebook page:
We invite everyone to come in after work to eat slow, take a load off, relax, and enjoy for a while. Izakaya style eating typically includes ordering multiple izakaya dishes over the course of a couple hours, drinking sake and beer, and finishing with a bowl of hot steamy bowl of ramen or some tasty sweets before calling it a night.Elliott, an IT guy by day and relentless pursuer of the perfect ramen in his off-hours, told Eater Austin that he's turned his house "into a ramen research facility."
Cooking ramen gives Elliott the opportunity to make people happy in a way that his corporate gig just can't come close to, he said: "Nobody enjoys the printer working, that's not a delight." But when people enjoy his ramen, Elliott says he feels "really encouraged by that."
A graduate of the Yamato Noodle School, which offers week-long crash courses in all things ramen, Elliott was featured in an NHK World piece that follows him through his week in ramen. Elliott described his bowls as "a little more robust" than those at Daruma Ramen, the new downtown ramen shop known for its light broth. And he said he's working especially hard on a vegan bowl: "I really think people are going to be surprised that it's vegan."
But ramen will only be one part of the many offerings at the Dojo, which will feature teppanyaki-style grilled items and small plates meant to be enjoyed over several hours. Diners and drinkers will be able to "hang out all night," said Elliott, thanks to the diverse menu.
"I think people will enjoy the variety," says Elliott. "It's a way to have a social experience, and [the menu] is simple, delicious and shareable." (Here's a teaser.)
Elliott told Eater Austin that his eventual goal is to perfect his ramen at the Dojo, then expand into a chain of ramen shops—and the guy is nothing if not ambitious, aiming for one thousand Ramen Ninja's Nommin' Noodles shops across the country. But only once he's got his recipe down to the finest of sciences. "I measure to the half-gram," said Elliott. "I cook the noodles to the second."
And despite the cheeky name, Elliott takes his business very seriously: "Nobody's going to be wearing a ninja outfit." But he said his ramen will definitely "assassinate your hunger."
The future site of the Dojo. [Photo: Google Maps/The Dojo/EATX]