Griffin Paulin, soon-to-be owner-chef at Mirin when it opens in September. | Photo by Steve Coomes

It’s safe to say that Rumplings Slurp Shop, the short-lived noodle-centric restaurant in the Highlands, was a nightmare for all involved—because all involved said so.

In their own vibrant retellings of the experience—none of which is approved or fit for publication—chefs Griffin Paulin, Dustin Staggers and Ethan Ray told me about the struggles involved opening the modest 20-seat location in November of 2014. The restaurant’s labor-intense menu became a monster that devoured the trio’s time, energy and working capital.

Hard lessons were learned, friendships were bruised and the restaurant closed in the spring of 2015. But there was one 24-karat gold takeaway from the experience: social media channels choked with pictures of customers lined up along Highland Ave., waiting in the cold for noodle dishes. Though the chefs didn’t refine a profitable formula for supplying the hordes with those popular slurp-ables, they didn’t mistake the demand for them.

The Clifton restaurant space formerly known as Shiraz will house Mirin come September. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The Clifton restaurant space formerly known as Shiraz will house Mirin come September. | Photo by Steve Coomes

“Oh, it’s there for sure,” says Paulin, now at work to open Mirin, an Asian street food concept at 2011 Frankfort Ave., in September. Following Rumplings, he worked at Over the 9 and at Corbett’s: An American Place. “There are only two places to get really good (Asian noodle dishes) in the East End: Asiatique and Basa. And then you’re headed to the South End (Vietnam Kitchen and Thuy Van) if you want more.”

Named after the sweet Japanese rice wine, Mirin will serve a simple menu of 12 to 15 noodle dishes and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) tailored to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. His only kitchen help will come from chef de cuisine, Michael Macinness, with whom he worked at Over the 9 and Corbett’s.

Prices will range from $6-$18 for noodle bowls, banh mi and combos of each. All food and drink will be ordered and retrieved at the kitchen counter.

Tastier details are forthcoming since “the menu’s still a work in progress,” Paulin says, but he insisted there won’t be any pho.

“I don’t know enough about it to make it like I like it, honestly,” he says. “But we’ll have udon and ramen.”

Drinks will include tea and soda, while beer and saké (including some premium options) will make up the adult beverage choices.

Slightly larger than Rumplings, the former Shiraz location is a 1,300 square-foot shop that will seat about 35 guests at high top tables and a bar looking out onto the Frankfort Ave. streetscape. At present, the space is mostly empty since the former operators made off with every scrap of equipment once used there. Nothing left but detritus cast off in a hasty departure. Thankfully for Paulin, his dad is a construction contractor who will oversee the room’s overhaul.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m nervous as hell about it,” says Paulin. Pausing from devouring a plate of pad Thai at the newly opened Time 4 Thai, just down the road from Mirin, he adds, “I’ll probably not even sleep until September.”

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.