Chashu Ramen + Izakaya
Tasty Asian tapas. Slurpable soups and eye popping art.
In Japan, ‘chashu’ is the word for braised pork belly, but in Downtown Worcester, it means a whole lot more.
Set in this sleek spot on Franklin Street Downtown, Chashu Ramen and Izakaya is a modern East Asian eatery with cool artwork, anime playing on the televisions, and an active open kitchen. Owner Tam Le wanted to create a festive space that brings all of your senses half-way across the world.
“Our vision was to have a place that can transport people. Bring something fresh to downtown Worcester and create that Japanese inspired lounge, bar environment and have it with some style. So when you’re coming in, you don’t feel like you’re in downtown Worcester. Every square inch of the space was curated, right from the artwork on the walls, even the seating. So a lot of thought went into the whole experience.”
And a lot of thought also went into Chef Son Vo’s menu.
“The food that we have, some is very authentic, but some is our cool twist on Japanese cuisine. And so, customers come in, they may have never had Japanese food before or ramen or izakaya. And we want to make sure that we can, you know, provide them with like a great experience and understand the food and what’s behind it.”
Much like the izakayas of Japan, Chashu offers an array of unique small plates that are great to share. There’s an exquisite beef tataki, sliced thin, dressed with a yuzu vinaigrette with watermelon radish and fried onion. And addicted Korean style chicken wings.
“They’re double fried, extremely crispy on the outside, and they’re fresh and so you have a really moist chicken wing that’s like nice and crispy on the outside. They are amazing.”
For a handheld way to kick off your meal, try Chashu’s bao, or steamed buns.
There’s the crunchy fried chicken version topped with cabbage slaw and wasabi micro greens. And the beautifully braised pork belly bao.
“It’s a steamed bun that is light, fluffy, and a little bit sweet. And the pork bao, is braised, and then finished with the hand torch. And when you bite into that bao, it’s like a flavor bomb. And you have the different textures of the soft bun and then the nice chew of the pork. It is delicious.”
Another must try at Chashu is the robata* section of the menu, which is lined with delicious skewers of meats and vegetables cooked on a traditional charcoal grill.
“Kushi are the skewers. And for that we imported a grill as a special grill from Japan. And we use a special charcoal called bichochan. It burns at even temperature for over eight hours.”
And what’s coming off of that grill is beyond tasty, whether you get grilled corn smothered in butter, juicy chicken, unctuous pork belly, shishito peppers. And for the daring, crispy chicken skin.
“It’s kind of like ordering a bunch of appetizers to share. We want everyone to have a good time and enjoy themselves. And so you would order a cocktail or a couple skewers and just kind of graze and order a couple more skewers, or maybe another drink.”
And now for some noodles. The specialty of the house here is Chashu’s authentic ramen. These hot, steamy, slurpable bowls of soup will make you feel warm all over.
“It is definitely a comfort food. It’s warm, it’s hearty. When you eat ramen, it kind of warms you up and it makes you feel like you’re at home.”
For something to light up your palate, try the spicy red miso ramen spiked with minced pork, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions and a soft boiled egg, swimming a spicy broth. And for something you can only find at Chashu, order the Buttercorn Ramen.
“That is one of our special creations. It’s a garlic butter that we make in house. We take whole corn on the cob and then we will slice off the cob and then we’ll char it in the wok. And the chicken is sous vide. It’s extremely tender. And so when you combine all those flavors, it’s like something that you’ve never had. It’s one of our most popular ramen dishes. “
If you’re in a celebratory mood, get a Woo-Bap for the table; a enormous shareable rice bowl spiked with more of those skewers.
“A Woobop that is ChaShu’s spin on Bibimbap. So it’s a big rice dish. It’s got crispy rice in the bottom. And then we have the skewers of meat and the vegetables with our special sauce. And then we toss it tableside for you. People, nine times out of 10 have their cameras out.”
And you’ll definitely want to get your camera, and your fork out for the over the top desserts at Chashu, like this outstanding 9 layer crepe cake, smothered with Nutella.
“The chocolate Nutella layered crepe cake is just like, out of this world. It’s very light and not too sweet. And it’s at least nine layers of crepes and it’s my favorite dessert.”
And just like Tam, you’ll end up finding a lot of ‘favorites’ on the menu, when you visit Chashu.