Chef Jared Lupin was exposed to the world of ramen and sushi during a U.S. Army tour more than a decade ago.
Born in Torrance, California, Lupin was raised throughout Arizona, playing youth hockey and living what he calls the “hockey punk” lifestyle.
He found his life’s calling in Korea, where he studied culinary arts after completing his tour of duty.
That calling allowed Lupin to take a crash course in the various forms of ramen, a hearty soup usually consisting of marrow stock and various meats and vegetables.
Lupin also learned the art of creating numerous types of sushi rolls, which helped him launch a career as a chef in the Valley upon returning stateside in 2005.
His latest endeavor might be his boldest, as Lupin embarks on the state’s first “hand roll” sushi restaurant—Dori Hand Roll and Ramen.
Hand rolls are just as they sound: sushi rolls customized to the diner’s tastes and made to order, featuring an assortment of meats and fillers.
The concept is bold, as it invites guests to sit at a bar with their own hand roll chef.
When Dori Hand Roll and Ramen opens soon, the restaurant will be located at Camelback Colonnade, near 20th Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix. It will feature an assortment of specialty cocktails and drinks, including alcohol-infused teas.
The concept is the collaboration between Los Angeles-based Ahi Mahi Group and Arizona’s Wade Foster Hospitality, with Lupin designing the menu and culinary touches.
Lupin’s pedigree is as long as it is impressive, having been the ramen chef at Republic Ramen, Umami Ramen and Shady Park, where he won “Best Ramen in Phoenix” in 2019.
The longtime chef sees an opportunity to establish noodles and hand roll sushi as Phoenix’s next culinary calling card.
“It’s always pizza, tacos, sushi and burritos. But I’m thinking that noodles are one of those things that people really jump into,” Lupin says. “So, just the relatability of what people knew here, which was just packaged ramen.
“Dori’s kind of my chance to show people what I want to do with ramen and to showcase my style.”
Lupin’s decision to focus his menu around hand rolls stemmed from a desire to make eating more of a social experience.
He wants diners at Dori to have an “aha” moment toward the culinary style he presents, where they actively enjoy the food, the drinks and the intrapersonal aspect of having a personal chef at guests’ table, catering to their tastes and culinary preferences.
“But really, the hand roll is the push that I always felt was more intimate than sushi,” Lupin says. “People gravitate toward sushi and umami and sashimi, but I think hand rolls are underestimated, is that personal moment where I’m making that there. The rice is there, the fish is there, we talked about it, you ate it, it’s that moment.”
The 38-year-old chef expects Dori to shatter people’s preconceived notions about Asian food, harkening back to his days roaming the streets of Seoul and Kyoto as an aspiring chef.
“It’s more of that style where you’re walking around those cities and you hit a vendor and there’s a little stall, and you think, ‘Oh, what’s this?’” Lupin says. “And you try all the little bits and you move on. And that’s really what it is, amid a food setting I feel.”
Lupin wants to transport people to those culinary settings that he got to know so well during his time in Asia, allowing them to explore their culinary horizons while having a great experience at the same time.
“It’s a good chunk of stuff that reminded me of when I’d hit the street and go eat spareribs when I was in Korea,” Lupin says. “I would go find the tempura guy, and that guy would just have a tray of it and would fry everything, put it in the bag and you’d walk out. We want those little things too. We want you to get that in more of a dining setting.
But, I think just putting people in that place and that moment is going to kind of unfold on its own. Whatever that moment is, everything’s going to push it and amplify it a bit more. That’s what our goal is really.”
He expects Dori to embody the aspects of dining establishments that he frequented, inviting customers to get lost in the moment and enjoy a culinary setting unlike anything they’ve experienced.
Lupin believes the authenticity and socially centered setup will allow diners to shirk any reservations they’d have about expanding their culinary palette, making it a one-of-a-kind experience for all involved.
“We’re using banana leaves. We’re using bamboo. We’re using a lot of little things in a style where we’re making it dark but we’re also elevating these art aspects, such as maybe a graffiti style,” Lupin says. “We want to create that environment where you step into your little booth and there’s a little curtain and you’re there and your server kind of explains things, and from then on it’s all about the experience.”