Umami Dumpling & Ramen Bar is headed for 923 Williamson Street. The space is a 1890s house that co-owners Randy Ng and Michael Ding are remodeling into a restaurant that will "feel hip, but not pretentious," explains Ng, while restoring the exterior to fit with the rest of the Williamson historic district.
The two, both transplanted New Yorkers, want to "bring authentic Japanese ramen and authentic dumplings" to Madison. The menu, still in progress, will also feature appetizers, salads, and desserts, and emphasize pairing local beer, sake and "saketinis" with the fare.
Three types of ramen are planned: tonkotsu (broth made from long-simmered pork bones), miso, and vegetarian (kelp- and mushroom-based). There will also be seasonal specials and at all times Umami will strive to feature ingredients from local farms.
Ramen is hot these days, from Asia to the U.S.; ramen shops are chronicled in blogs like Ramenate! and Rameniac. Dumpling bars, also trendy, have not yet inspired the blogosphere to such an extent. Umami's dumplings (jiaozi) will be in traditional pork and leek, chicken and leek, chicken and mushroom, and vegetarian.
Both ramen and dumplings are what Ng characterizes as "soulful food," especially in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. The restaurant's name, Umami, is the name for what's often called the "fifth taste" and sometimes defined as "savory."
Ng says they are shooting for a late fall or early winter opening: "We'd definitely like to be open before Christmas."