Otaku South, self described as an occasional ramen shop in Nashville, is unique in that it is an on-going pop-up ramen shop sprouting it’s noodles in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and art events, just to name a few.
Otaku South, by some miraculous secret desire on my husband’s part, teamed up with Dennis Lange, who has mastered the art of yakitori. Yakitori is the term used for Japanese chicken on a skewer, but can also refer to other types of Japanese food on a skewer. When Mr. ST. lived in Atlanta some years back, he was a regular customer when Dennis had a yakitori restaurant, Yakitori Den Chen. If I had a dollar for every time he has talked about missing that Yakitori Den Chen over the last 14 years, I would have enough to take at least 10 of you out to dinner. Dennis Lange is opening a new restaurant n Atlanta with Chef Cooper Miller, called Southbound.
Several weeks ago, this genius culinary team of two Americans who love Japanese food and have committed a large part of themselves to perfecting it, decided to team up and create an incredible two day event. We only got to enjoy the second day at the Joint 2 Art event that featured photography of cars and motorcycles from the 1950-70′s. Night one was at a bowling alley and night two at an art gallery, noted by the variety of shoes in the below pictures. The shoe fashion was so interesting that I couldn’t help myself. The food was set up outside and the weather was just right. We watched this duo in awe as we ate yakitori and noodles and pancakes from Otaku South.
Otaku South is a simple concept with complicated logistics, complex flavors and a committed chef, Sarah Gavigan. I have a few thing in common with Sarah; she is part Sicilian and so am I. She is extremely passionate about food and has always made food her priority when traveling. She lived in Southern California for 17 years where she took to Izakaya (casual Japanese dining out) and I lived there for 20 years working for Japanese company. I make pasta. She makes ramen.
Sarah focuses on Japanese food like I’ve never seen a gal from the South do. She is originally from Columbia, Tennessee and I’m not even sure Columbia has an Asian restaurant. About a year ago, Sarah started serving big bowls of ramen in a pop up setting and then allowing social media to run with her story like a wild fire.
I first tried her aromatic big bowl of noodles when she hosted an event at a local coffee house, Roast. The line was out the door, all drummed up through social media, and word of mouth. This was an incredibly soothing bowl of noodles and I particularly loved the addition of the egg.
Cook Ramen and They Will Come
Otaku South has become a unique on-going pop up. Sarah sets up shop, and a line forms, all driven by social media. Customers eat the best bowl of ramen they’ve probably ever had for a price of around $13.
I stood in amazement watching the operation. It’s swift, organized, and not at all what anyone would expect if the only Ramen they had was back in college in the Styrofoam cups. Often, there is a vegan selection, but her typical noodle bowl is made with a rich, pork based broth, and offers additional options. Get the egg. It’s divine. Eating Ramen is a satisfying experience, because the flavors first hit your nose, delivering a savory promise of comfort food soup that goes beyond a bowl of chicken soup. It can be an entire meal in a bowl, once you add in some extra pork, the egg, greens and whatever other addition is being offered. Beyond the ingredients, one can taste the love and the skill and culinary direction that went into the bowl.
This particular night in the summer, Sarah was serving a cold noodle dish and a pancake.
Okonomiyaki, a scallion pancake and Hiyashi-Suka, cold noodle dish were served from Otaku South.
Dennis lives in Atlanta but heard about Sarah’s ventures and emailed her. The shared passion for this casual type of Japanese cooking turned into an event. Sarah’s husband made the Yakitori grill which only tells me that talent marries talent. The grill has to perform in such a way that the high heat does not burn the food, which is typically charred first and then sauced.
After sampling all the various skewers, the tofu was my favorite, while the meat skewers swept Mr. ST.
Grill made by Sarah’s husband, used to make the pancake.
Do Shoes Tell a Story?
I think they do. While I was enjoying the art on the walls and the food of this amazing duet, I couldn’t help but take notice of the shoes.
I captured the night in photographs deeming this appropriate as the art event we attended was centered around photography.
I enjoyed this shoe gazing so much because, obviously, it tells a story. I didn’t include my own shoes here because they just weren’t cool enough. I’m thinking that if I can pull it off, I might include shoes in all my restaurant posts.
Here is one of Steve McQueen, a photo that was part of the exhibit.
We hope there are more events combining these two great talents. Since this event, Sarah has hosted several more Ramen events and I’ve seen a little chatter about a possible brick and mortar Otaku South. Time will tell. It seems like Sarah has tested the waters, experienced success, and has built a customer base that will continue to show up, stand in line and slurp noodles? Whatever happens, Nashville has proven that it hungers for culinary diversity, and out of the box thinking and eating. Otaku South might just soon have to order a neon sign.