Comfort, The Beatles, and quality ingredients collide at Ramen Soul.
As I walk through the door of Fork! in Cornelius, the smell of one of my favorite types of comfort food, ramen, greets me like an old friend.
I’ve come to Fork!, which opened in 2013, to talk to Chef Tim Groody and his wife and business partner, Melanie, about their new chef-driven concept restaurant, Ramen Soul. Ramen Soul will open in Mooresville late April or early May and will serve ramen soup, rice noodle rolls, spring rolls, dumplings, and dim sum with a Chef Groody twist. Instead of just telling me about their new concept, they allowed me to see what diners can expect when they go to Ramen Soul.
The name “Ramen Soul,” an homage to the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul, was created out of Melanie’s love of music and of ramen.
“We are ramen obsessed,” Melanie says. “We knew all along we wanted to have more than one restaurant and all with completely different concepts. We knew in early 2016, right after we got married, that we wanted to do something with ramen, but with an Americanized, chef-driven twist.”
In September 2016, their landlord and business partner with Ramen Soul purchased a strip mall in Mooresville. There was a soon-to-be-vacant space next to the Harbor Point Animal Hospital that he thought might be a fit for the next Groody concept.
“The location fell in our lap,” Melanie says. “It just seemed like it was the right opportunity at the right time.”
Diners at Ramen Soul can expect to walk into a place that is light and airy with a mix of industrial and natural elements. The bar will be white cement, and there will be brick walls adorned with art created by local artist Scott Partridge.
“The overall feel will be fun and laid back,” says Melanie. “Art will be cool, classic-rock album covers with an Asian twist. We will also have a mural on the wall with song lyrics. Music evokes emotion and so does food, so it’s a perfect combination.”
Now, back to the food:
Ramen, dim sum, and dumplings came out in a succession of steam and intoxicating smells. Noodles and broth meant to be slurped were the first things that caught my eye.
Diners can expect the same high-quality ingredients that the Groodys use at Fork!
“I need to be in the kitchen,” Tim says. “I have to experiment…I’m not a concept chef.”
The ramen will be traditional noodles and broth, but expect seasonal toppings and variations. The noodles for the ramen will be from Sun Noodle. Tim states that “if we can’t make a better noodle, we won’t.” The dumplings will be made in house, and many of the herbs used will be grown at both restaurant locations.
Tim will be working with Westmoreland Aquaponics to grow specific herbs to use for the Asian-inspired elements of the dishes. Cold Water Creek Farms will be helping the Groodys grow their own vegetables to be used in many of the dishes.
“We are still playing with the menu, but we will have six to seven ramen options at a time,” Tim says. “Right now, we are playing with kimchi and sauerkraut in our spring rolls.”
As Tim and Melanie talk about the menu, eggplant, lamb bacon (yes, lamb bacon), and different proteins were mentioned in passing as ingredients. Over and over, both Tim and Melanie mention umami. Umami, or savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes in the human palate. The broth and the proteins that the Groodys will use will enhance the umami taste.
“Our ramen will feature full-flavored broths that will be traditional, but we will get creative with the other ingredients that go in the bowl,” Tim says. “We will have technical broths (it takes 12-14 hours to make the broth), but we will change the flavors as we go.”
Tim emphasizes the seasonal focus on ingredients, especially the fish. There will be sashimi plates with bass and snapper, although Tim explains that unless the fish is high quality, it won’t be on the menu.
“We want to keep the price down, but we will only serve our guests the absolute best,” Tim says. “Our menu will be chef inspired, which means we put a lot of effort into it. We care and will take the time, effort, and energy required to provide the best food.“
The bar is Melanie’s brainchild. Expect wine, sake, beer, and cocktails—all carefully chosen to complement the flavors of the food.
“We hope to have an education component for diners about sake pairings to bring out the umami of the food,” Melanie says. “We will eventually have sake dinners and a sake vs. beer dinner. We will also have four to five signature sake cocktails, including the Sake to Me sangria.”
Melanie says “sake can be added to any cocktail to take it to the next level.”
Tim and Melanie will be primarily at Ramen Soul until the restaurant has been established and is running smoothly. Once that happens, they will go back and forth between the two restaurants.
“I’m excited about eating the food at Ramen Soul,” says Tim. “Melanie likes her ramen spicy and I like mine not so spicy. We love ramen.”
We do, too.
Ramen Soul will be located at 694 Brawley School Road in Mooresville.
Photos by LunahZon Photography.