Updated Jun 21, 2019; Posted Jun 20, 2019
By late summer, downtown Worcester will be home to a new Japanese-inspired restaurant and bar serving up steaming bowls of ramen, craft cocktails and skewers.
Chashu Ramen + Izakaya is set to open at 38 Franklin St. by September. The restaurant is a collaboration between Worcester’s Son Vo of Kaizen and Pho Sure, and Tam Le of Pho Linh and Reign Drink Lab in Boston.
“It will be elevated Asian — we want to bring a nice place to Worcester where people came come, relax and enjoy themselves, go out at night and feel like they’re being taken care of,” Le said. “On the food side, Son is just meticulous and detail-oriented. He loves to cook, loves to host.”
Vo opened Kaizen in Sturbridge in 2007 and Pho Sure in Shrewsbury five years ago. He said he wanted to bring something to downtown Worcester that would complement the city’s existing food scene.
The restaurant, which is currently under construction, will open by September at the latest, the owners said.
“The concept is something I think is fun,” Vo said. “Every chef has a different take, so our take is we’re trying to bring a different take to the food style to Worcester.”
Chashu Ramen + Izakaya will feature about 100 seats, a large bar area, an open kitchen concept and a reservation-only room with a chef’s table, where the food is prepared right in front of customers.
“The chef will perform for you, no barrier, you can watch all of it,” Vo said, adding the chef’s room seats 10.
The restaurant will serve a variety of ramen, small plates and skewers, as well as some sushi.
It draws part of its name from Izakaya, a type of Japanese pub, and will feature a full liquor program with craft cocktails and Japanese whiskey.
“The Izakaya part of the food, it’s small plates,” Le added. “It’s like Japanese tapas.”
When Vo decided to open a third restaurant — this time in his hometown of Worcester — he approached Le about collaborating on the endeavor.
Vo moved to the United States from Vietnam when he was 14 and settled in the city. He met Le after going to high school with Le’s now-wife at South High Community School and working his first job at her father’s restaurant.
Le said the two complement each other well. While Vo handles most of the food-related matters, Le focuses on marketing and networking.
“It’s about creating experiences. Life is short and we just want to have a good time and we want to capture that energy and that feeling in the space. We’re excited to be reinvesting in Worcester,” Le said. "I think at the end of the day, my inherent nature is I’m an artist, so I just like to create and with this restaurant, I think for both of us, we have a blank canvas where we can do what we want and I think there’s something in that that really excites us.”
The owners are bringing in two muralists — Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez and Aerosyn-lex Mestrovic — who will create several large pieces for the space.
Marka27 will paint two murals on both sides of the bar that Le said have a Japanese feel while capturing the urbanism of Worcester. On the other side of the dining room, Aerosyn-lex will create three large pieces that tie together to create more of a relaxed vibe.
Le said the artist hopes to layer a projection onto the mural, which he hasn’t done before.
“That piece itself will make us a destination,” he said. But at the end of the day, Le said everything comes down to the quality of the food.
Vo and Le added that they got in to Worcester at the right time — Vo signed a lease for the space six months before the Pawtucket Red Sox announced the team will move to the city in 2021.
“We got in before the craziness,” Le said.
And while there are other ramen restaurants in Worcester, including nearby Stix Noodle Bar, Broth and simjang, the owners said Chashu will offer a different experience with a unique menu.
"I want to see a concept they they don’t have here yet, I want to bring it in and add value to the downtown without competing with anyone. That's why I came back to Worcester,” Vo said.
The owners also said they also see a further opportunity in the city.
“We see Chashu as setting a foundation for us in Worcester and showing Worcester what we can do, and as Worcester grows, we hope to grow to with it,” Le said.