Ichiraku Ramen & Fusion restaurant coming to former Denny’s property

The former Denny's building is under renovation and soon to become a Japanese fusion restaurant. NRI NOW photo by Sandy Hall

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A successful Japanese fusion restaurant that serves ramen, sushi and more on Douglas Pike in Smithfield is on track to open a second location soon in Dowling Village.

Owner Zi Ken Zhang obtained a liquor license this week to do business at 44 Dowling Village, a building previously occupied by Denny’s, prior to that restaurant’s closure last year.

Zhang opened Ichiraku Ramen and Fusion in Smithfield in 2020, serving a long list of menu items such as Singapore rice noodles, steamed buns, soups, hibachi and sushi options. Popular items at the restaurant include Gyoza, or pan-fried Japanese dumplings and Tonkotsu, a dish made of chashu pork, kikurage, bamboo shoots, mustard leaves, soy sauce, egg, scallion, sesame seeds, black sesame oil and toasted seaweed.

“This is going to be a big benefit to the town, a welcomed addition to the town, because we go to your restaurant all the time in Smithfield,” Councilor John Beauregard told Zhang at the meeting this week. “It’s fantastic.”

“Welcome to the town,” Beauregard added. “I think you guys are going to do great.”

The restaurant addition comes amid what seems to be a renewed interest in the area. A separate developer has submitted plans to build a Chipotle Mexican Grill and a Starbucks on a nearby property at 82 and 88 Eddie Dowling Highway.

Council President Kimberly Alves asked Zhang when he anticipates opening.

“As soon as possible,” Zhang replied.

A Cranston resident, Zhang filed articles of organization to open the location in North Smithfield in December, and has been working to renovate and customize the former diner over the past several months. The business is awaiting a certificate of compliance, which Town Clerk Joanne Buttie noted has already been approved by the town’s building and inspection department.

“They ran into a few problems, so the inspector is definitely keeping on top of it, and once we get the ok from him we’ll issue the license,” said Buttie. “Everything else at this point has been done.”

Councilors unanimously approved the new victualing license on Monday, March 18.

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