We had eaten ramen at this place in the past (It was great, in huge bowls at a very reasonable price), and decided to try out their sushi with a couple of our friends. What a wonderful treat it was!
Osaka Ramen is located across the street from the San Sebastian church at Coronel Talbot 8-26 between Sucre and Simon Bolivar. It is a small restaurant with four small tables and a counter on the main floor and more seating upstairs. The decor is very clean and welcoming, as is the wait staff.
The chef, Ray Huntley, is originally from the Philippines, and worked for eight years under a sushi chef in Osaka, Japan. Although Osaka Ramen is labeled a ramen shop, Huntley’s specialty is makisushi, sushi rolls. The word “specialty” minimizes his talent. The man is an artist. He is also friendly and affable.
In stark contrast to this reviewer’s stumbling Spanish, Huntley is fluent in several languages, including English. Jackie is from Japan, so she and Huntley carried on a conversation in that language, of which I understood virtually nothing. Despite a few years of German, French and Latin in high school, I remain essentially mono-lingual, though I can still swear in Finnish, not a particularly useful talent in Cuenca.
My mother-in-law, Hisako, is Japanese lady from Hiroshima and an excellent cook, and made it one of her goals to fatten me up, a goal which she reached successfully. Her cooking was in the Hiroshima regional style, distinctive in that she had a “sweet hand.” Huntley’s style was in the Osaka cuisine, with more of a ginger aftertaste. I’d be hard pressed to decide which was my favorite.
These regional differences are very apparent, like the differences between Chicago and New Orleans barbecue. Both are delicious.
We ordered some gyoza to start ($8). Gyoza are steamed or fried dumplings containing meat and vegetables in a thin wrapping, very similar to Chinese pot stickers. My mother-in-law called them bat wings, and they are among my very favorite Japanese dishes. The ones at Osaka Ramen were delicious. They were served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and ginger.
For a main course, I ordered the Dragon Roll ($10), Jackie had the Tuna Roll ($12), and our friends ordered the Tempura Mambo Roll ($8). Each order consisted of a generous roll sliced into eight bite-sized pieces, accompanied by slivers of ginger, alfalfa sprouts and a dollop of wasabi. Wasabi is a Japanese horse radish that will eat the chrome off your spoon and cauterize your sinuses. Tastes great, but approach with caution.
All the rolls tasted and looked amazing. At its most basic, sushi rolls consist of sticky rice wrapped around savory vegetables, crab or fish and topped with any number of little ingredients, the purpose of which is to add little complementary notes of taste and to make it all visually pleasing. In this, Chef Huntley is a master.
A close look at the Dragon Roll, for example, reveals not only the expected variety of ingredients in middle of the roll, surrounded by rice with sesame seeds, topped with three layers of additional morsels resulting in an amazing bite of complex and subtle flavors and colors. Visualize, for instance, the colors, textures and flavors of crab meat, avocado and sea urchin eggs in a single bite. The sushi rolls were so pleasing to the eye, it seemed a shame to destroy these works of art by biting into them.
The Tempura Mambo Roll was unusual in that it was deep fried, adding a crunchy layer to the exterior of the roll.
Osaka Ramen has been at this location only three months, and I predict it will be very successful. I can enthusiastically recommend it.
We also had a great time watching our friends wrestle with chopsticks for the first time.
Visit Osaka. You will be glad you did.
Osaka Ramen, 8-26 Coronel Talbot y Simon Bolivar, on San Sebastian Plaza.