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Restaurant Review Nashville: Otaku South Popup

Josh and I jumped at the chance on Sunday to try a new popup restaurant in town. Otaku South is a project by a local resident, Sarah Gavigan, who has a passion to be bring authentic ramen to Nashville. She is currently only doing one or two events a month, and they have been extremely hard to get into in the past, so we were determined to get our own bowls of noodles this time. Luckily we have some food obsessed friends who were right there with us. The meal was served in a great coffee shop, so the four of us got there early and hung out with warm cups of coffee and tea until the main event.

I’ve proclaimed our love for ramen before (notably here and here), so we understandably went into this event with high hopes. Knowing that Sarah cooks her broth for days, using pork bones from Porter Road Butcher, was encouraging. Making true ramen is not a quick process. The broth is the star, with all of the other additions supporting players. You can’t have a great bowl of ramen with some weak store bought broth. It just doesn’t work.

There were three different flavors offered: pork, spicy chicken, and corn miso. While part of me (the new found part that is addicted to sriracha and spicy food in general) wanted to get the spicy chicken, I knew I’d be full of regrets if I didn’t join the rest of my group and get the pork ramen.

I’ll break it down into two groups: the fun stuff and the broth.

The fun stuff included shredded pork, a soft boiled egg, pickled greens, fried shallots that I could have eaten by the bowlful, and some of the best ramen noodles I’ve ever had. These noodles had the perfect chew and subtle flavor that makes for a well balanced bowl of ramen, and I need to find out where she gets them. I’d like to buy them in bulk and eat them on a weekly basis. There was also a little collection of pickled daikon radish, peppers, and mushrooms on the side to accompany the ramen. Josh, who I’m just now easing into the world of fungi, even said that the mushrooms were great, which is high praise indeed. All in all, these ingredients were delicious and also just a lot of fun to eat. Much slurping ensued, which in ramen culture is not only accepted but encouraged.

The broth is a subject unto itself. On each table was a bottle of a tasty homemade sriracha type sauce called “friendly fire” (which could take your taste buds off if you weren’t careful) and a bottle of burnt garlic oil. While the addition of these two ingredients make the broth tasty, they also contributed to my slight disappointment. To me, the perfect ramen broth shouldn’t need that much tinkering. Maybe a little squirt of something here and there to fine tune it to your preferences, but not a lot. While Otaku’s broth was nice and rich, it also felt slightly heavy and just lacked a certain depth of flavor. Most people might not even notice this, but after having had some truly incredible ramen over the years I know that this just didn’t quite measure up. All three of my co-slurpers felt the same way, so I knew I wasn’t just being too picky. I wound up adding a good bit of both the sauce and oil in order to brighten up the flavors.

While the experience didn’t quite live up to my admittedly high hopes, I would absolutely love to try it out again. Maybe next time I’ll give one of the other flavors a go (hello, spicy chicken). It was still good, and certainly far better than anything similar that I’ve had around here. I’m also just excited to have something like this available in the town that I love, and will support Otaku South for no other reason than appreciation for introducing the people of Nashville to the wonderful world of true ramen.

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5 responses »

  1. great review! I felt the same way about the broth when we had Otaku at the 12th South Taproom. I’ve never had authentic ramen, though, so I wasn’t sure if I would be the only one to feel that way. definitely intrigued enough by what she’s offering to try it again, but slightly let down by our first experience.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad to hear this from a ramen newbie! Like I said, I wasn’t sure if we have just been spoiled or not. I would definitely try her out again, but I would go in with lower expectations. We just really need a great ramen restaurant here!

      Reply
  2. Hey thanks for the honest feedback…..this baby is a work in progress. I am not a seasoned ramenista (no pun intended). That broth is a beast, let me tell ya. I get fresh bones every time, which no one in NY, LA or Tokyo does….that has translated into a much thicker broth. The deepness is the mystery that I continue to play with an learn.

    Thanks for your support, and your feedback, I welcome it.

    Best, Sarah

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Sarah! I can only imagine just how tricky that broth can be. Just reading up on the how-to process includes an infinite number of variations. We definitely think you’re on to something great, and are looking forward to trying it again.

      Reply
      • Thanks ladies – keep those comments coming – I am an open book. The depth comes from two things – Dashi and Tare. Both very tricky and very “ancient” in that they are deftly simple but insanely hard to get right.

        I will never get better at this if everyone just tells me they like it 🙂

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