For those still unwilling to venture downtown, a new sushi and ramen concept opening this Thursday in the space vacated by the former Gio Taco at 350 East Congress Street might change that outlook. OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen, will feature modern Asian cuisine and a full bar wrapped up in an intimate, wood-heavy modern design.
The sushi and ramen joint brings a fresh edge to Asian food in Tucson and adds a couple of items not typically found: steamed buns and, of course, ramen. Three types of ramen are available, including OBON Ramen, Tonkotsu, and a Shoyu. All ramen bowls feature roasted pork shoulder, however broth variations and ingredients differ with each variety. OBON’s steamed bun options are also threefold and include a pork belly, mahi-mahi, and a soft-shell crab choice.
Although a modern ramen concept is somewhat new to Tucson, co-owner Brandon Katz is no stranger to modern Asian cuisine. As former Regional Director of Operations at RA Sushi, followed by a number of consulting gigs for major hotel and restaurant players, such as SLS Hotels and Guy & Larry Restaurants, Katz has a keen sense for what works and what doesn’t, as well as the know-how to run a tight ship.
“It’s what I know and it’s what I have passion for,” said Katz. “It’s an enjoyable and approachable dining experience.”
For OBON’s bar program, Katz brought in Matt Martinez, who most recently tended bar at Scott & Co, one of Tucson’s original craft cocktail bars. Martinez has honed his chops considerably with stints at Umi Star and Nox, as well.
“With 4 years combined as a sushi chef and bartender, I’ve focused on developing a refined and structured bar program,” said Martinez. “There’s a variety of Japanese and Korean influences. You could call it “high volume craft.”
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Katz tapped another RA veteran, Paulo Im as head chef. Im, who formerly worked at Yuki’s Sushi and was the last person to mentor under Yuki Watabe before the long time Tucson chef retired, has had mostly free reign to develop OBON’s menu (View OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen Menu).
“Other than a minor few changes on my part,” said Katz, “it’s mostly Paulo. He’s great.”
Besides the ramen and buns, standout items include:
- Obonchan – Assorted Korean pickled vegetables
- Bibimbap Rice Bowl – Seasoned Korean vegetable, barbecue steak, gochujang dressing, and a 64º egg
- Sao Paolo Squid (Modern Nigiri) – Asian chimichurri, lime, scallions
- Bulgogi Ribeye – Cast iron crust, bulgogi glaze, shime buji mushrooms, sauteed onions, sesame seeds
- View OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen Menu
Standout cocktails include:
- Green Apple Shiso Soda – Shochu, shiso, granny smith apple, yuzu
- Umeshu Martini – Dry gin, plum wine, orange bitters, absinthe
OBON opens to the public Thursday at 4pm. While the restaurant’s normal hours will be 11am to midnight with Gio Taco’s former late night window open until 2:30am, hours will be limited to dinner only until August 24.
For more information, visit OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen on Facebook.