BY NICOLE BELL | PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
As they enter Tochi Ramen, diners are greeted by friendly staff and an intimate dining room adorned with a geometric artwork featuring four black rectangles and a single red circle. Co-owner Gregg M. Des Rosier, a trained chef and West Bend native, explains that the bars represent each of the four types of broth in traditional ramen: shio (salt based), shoyu (soy sauce based), tonkotsu (pork bone based) and miso (fermented soybean based).
Des Rosier, who owns Tochi with his wife Cathy, says that while he was originally trained to create French cuisines, a trip to Chicago’s Mitsuwa Marketplace opened his eyes to the intricacy of traditional ramen and the amount of effort and skill that goes into perfecting the beautiful dish. Des Rosier began studying the process and learning to create countless ramen options at home until the opportunity to make the Japanese dish full-time and share it with eager diners presented itself. He and Cathy opened Tochi Ramen four years ago in Shorewood, moving it to their current location about three years ago.
“I will do nothing but this the rest of my life and there’s still a lot to learn,” Des Rosier says, “and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
With broths that take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours from start to finish and a dedication to using ingredients from local farmers, Tochi offers tasty traditional bowls with serious attention to detail, like the shrimp kimchi shio shown here.
The dish starts with an unfermented kimchi combined with salt for the “shio” presence. When the broth is ready, shrimp, carrots, green onions, cabbage and red peppers are added for a fresh taste and crunch.
“[How ramen] applies to Wisconsin is that it’s comfort food,” Des Rosier says. “Traditionally in Japan it’s called the ‘salary man’ food. It was a lunchtime thing. It’s very nutritious and sticks with you. … Cultures aren’t that different in terms of what they want. Comfort food is comfort food. It just may come with a different package.”
“Ramen people,” says Des Rosier, are “the best people ever” because they know the amount of work each broth and bowl takes.
“I’m pursuing something that I want to share with people, not ‘I’m assuming these people want this so I’m going to give that to them,’” he says proudly. “It’s really just an outward expression of an inward journey from the chef to the table and I think that that works the best. That’s really your key ingredient.” MKE
Tochi Ramen, 705 Village Green Way, West Bend; (262) 429-1515; tochiramen.com