When someone says “ramen,” I tend to think of one of two things:
- Justin Timberlake’s hair circa 1999/2000
- Dehydrated noodles that you can buy for $1 or less per pack.
What I don’t think of is a satisfying meal that leaves me feeling stuffed. That recently changed, though, with a visit to Otaku Ramen here in Nashville. My second cousin was in town. She wanted something for dinner that she could not get at home. I either wanted to eat somewhere that I haven’t been yet or somewhere that my fiance wouldn’t eat. Otaku was on that list. Sure, my cousin can get ramen at home, but Otaku is unique to Nashville so it won out.
Ramen is a Japanese dish but apparently has Chinese origins (thank you, Wikipedia) and translates to “pulled noodles.” The noodles are wheat noodles served in some kind of broth and accompanied with a variety of toppings. Though ramen is considered a Japanese dish, I wouldn’t call Otaku a Japanese restaurant. Even their website calls the American ramen – ramen made with “ingredients that are familiar…using Japanese techniques.” There are different ramen variations throughout Japan. Otaku showcases different ramen types and flavors on their menu.
I have been wanting to eat here for a couple of years. The food was so good that I regret waiting so long and I already want to go back. Check the menu out here.
As is the trend in Nashville, hot chicken makes an appearance.
Hot chicken on a Japanese inspired menu may seem weird, but this was SO GOOD. I’m not a big fan of traditional coleslaw in most cases, but it complimented the spice in the hot chicken nicely. The bun was a little bland, but I think that’s the intent. Any flavoring in the bun likely would have gotten lost in the heat.
For my main course, I chose the Tennessee Tonkotsu and added pork belly. The Tennessee Tonkotsu consists of pork bone broth, pork confit, mayu (black garlic oil), woodear (a fungus related to mushrooms), scallion, and half of an egg. My cousin got the same thing along with a side of miso butter and a side of Korean chili paste.
I was not a fan of what I assume to be the pork confit (the sausage patty look-a-like) or the woodear. I’m not a fan of mushrooms to begin with and the woodear was just crunchy pieces of black mushroom to me. I could do without it next time. I stole a little bit of my cousin’s chili paste and it gave the whole bowl just enough of a kick to enhance the flavors of everything. She also said that the miso butter added a really good flavor to her bowl, so I’ll have to try that next time I go.
At the end of the night, an appetizer and two bowls of ramen (with customizations and add ons) was $46 before tip. It’s a little more than I would want to spend for dinner on the regular, but definitely worth every penny. I left feeling pleasantly stuffed, satisfied, and tired.
Now I’m going to go get ride of every pack of ramen noodles I have in my kitchen. It’s just not the same after this experience.