26 November, 2022, 08:28

Sneak peek into OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen’s new lunch menu

"we've got some big plans"

Seven years ago, OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen debuted its Asian cuisine in downtown Tucson. Subsequently, the restaurant has been keeping things fresh by incorporating new broth variations into their ramen bowls, adding limited-time cocktails to the menu, and opening locations in Scottsdale.

Dining room at OBON (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Dining room at OBON (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

“Since the beginning, when we opened OBON, we always held a lot of integrity towards not cutting corners,” said Andre Joffroy, CEO of Blueprint Restaurant Concepts (OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen/Goodness). “We’ve always showcased Japanese street culture in a clean design, and that formula just always really worked for us. We’ve always tried to stay really true to it.”

The Return of Lunch

Today, and more than two years after the pandemic took a bite out of the local restaurant scene, OBON is ready to rock your taste buds with the return of its lunch menu. The earlier eating experience will once again be available Wednesday – Sunday beginning on Wednesday, October 5.

Assorted lunch dishes at OBON (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

During most of 2020, foot traffic in downtown Tucson was extremely light — nearly nonexistent — and putting a pause on lunch offerings at OBON was, in a way, a must. Now, the reintroduction of midday dining is an intentional move and a decision that supports downtown’s vibrant return.

“We’ve been extremely grateful for how Tucson has open-armed received us and we plan on giving a lot more back,” said Joffroy. “So, we’ve got some big plans. Bringing back our lunch menu is just a stepping stone in that direction.”

That lunch menu is nearing its final stages for launch on Wednesday, October 5. One thing’s for sure, too, and it’s that OBON will have at least a couple of handheld options. Behold the almighty sandwiches.

Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich

One of the new creations is the Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich, which comes with a double-fried chicken thigh, spicy gochujang, kimchi slaw, house pickles, and Kewpie mayonnaise wedged between a brioche bun.

The other layered delight is the Pork Belly Katsu Sandwich. This one is also surrounded by a brioche bun and then filled with panko breaded pork belly, cabbage, spicy mustard, and katsu sauce. Good luck deciding which to eat first. Perhaps multiple visits or ordering them both during one sitting is the solution.

(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Pork Belly Katsu Sandwich

Talking ’bout Temaki

Once the new lunch hours hit the scene, a handful of new additions will be front and center on the hand-roll menu, which all can be made with any available fish.

“We have seen a trend of modern temaki happening across the country,” said Thomas. “It’s our take on a traditional temaki. Our ‘modern’ temaki will showcase the protein — opened face — along with torched nori. It’s all unique to us in Tucson and the Valley. We’re getting away from the traditional cone hand-roll and these are very sleek, clean looking — the easiest way to describe them is as a taco. They’re just absolutely really cool and there’s no one else doing them in Arizona.”

Temaki at OBON (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Redesigning with Rob Paulus

As mentioned earlier, OBON has big plans for the restaurant. Another one of their goals is reconstruction of the restaurant’s exterior, which will be in the hands of the architect responsible for the impressive front patio at Ermanos Bar, the dreamy atmosphere of Portal Cocktails, and the upcoming expansion of Food Conspiracy Co-op.

Dining room at OBON (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Dining room at OBON

“We believe that downtown is not going anywhere,” said Joffroy. “And not only are we going to open for lunch, but we are working with a local architect, Rob Paulus, to redesign the whole façade of our building’s storefront. It’s going to bring a whole new kind of facelift and something that’ll keep us open for the next 10 to 20 years. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be here.”

So, OBON’s here to stay and the crew is gearing up for the long-haul. With that being said, they’re always looking for new ways to showcase their craft and who they really are.

Sushi-making Classes with Chef Ernie Soto

At the moment, sushi-making classes are in the creation process. For example, one of these courses will feature a live session on how to cut down a tuna, which is then paired with a dinner inside the restaurant. The dates are still up in the air but the classes will be happening one to two times a month with Ernie Soto.

Chef Soto, who’s got 30 years of fishmonger experience and who’s also been with OBON since the beginning, is a mighty force in the operations at the restaurant. With Soto’s expertise in all-things-fish, it’s refreshing to know there’s always quality coming out of the kitchen.

(Photo by Anna Smirnova)

“We’ll bet on downtown and I’ll bet on Ernie all day long,” said Daniel Thomas, Director of Operations of Blueprint Restaurant Concepts (OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen/Goodness). “He’s been the fishmonger in our company for seven years. He’s actually gone to Phoenix and done fish demos — in our store here in Tucson, too. It’s something we want to get more involved in. And, you know, butchering fish isn’t the easiest thing to do. So, I think that would be something pretty cool to get going, and Ernie is on board with everything we’re talking about.”

Keep an eye out for more updates, and once everything’s been solidified, a registration link will be available on OBON’s website.

Hours of operation

Once the lunch menu launches, it’ll be available at 11:30 a.m. and up until Happy Hour, which starts at 4 p.m. The downtown restaurant is open until 10 p.m. on Sunday – Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen is located at 350 E. Congress St. For more information, visit obonsushi.com. Also, check out our article “What a catch! Ernie Soto, fishmonger & executive sushi chef of OBON.”

At a very young age, Matt was gifted with the artistic ability to masterfully roll a burrito to the highest of standards.

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