Your ramen prayers have been an­swered

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Christina Tkacik

Shige­hiko “Jacky” Okiebisu has missed good ramen ever since he moved to the U.S. in the 1980s as a chef for the chain Beni­hana. In Ja­pan, he said, “It’s like pizza here, ev­ery­where you go you see ramen shops.” But the clas­sic shoyu broth he’d slurped at street-side cafes in his home­town of Osaka had yet to ar­rive to Bal­ti­more’s wa­ters. So a few years ago, the chef re­turned to his home coun­try, to study the fine craft of ramen-mak­ing at a school in Shikoku Is­land.

To­day, Okiebisu’s re­search and ded­i­ca­tion to the dish are ev­i­dent in ev­ery bowl of steam­ing hot, com­plexly-fla­vored ramen that crosses the counter at Ramen Ut­suke, his lat­est restau­rant which opened this year along the In­ner Har­bor. It’s lo­cated on the first floor of 414 Light St., the high-rise build­ing on the site of the for­mer Mc­Cormick & Co. fac­tory. ($5 park­ing is avail­able in the build­ing’s lot.)

Ut­suke is a nick­name for Okiebisu’s fa­vorite samurai, Kippo, whose name also graces Okiebisu’s Fells Point ramen shop, which opened in 2016. Moreso than Kippo Ramen, Ramen Ut­suke is a fam­ily af­fair: His daugh­ter Anna owns the shop and his wife of­ten helps out in the kitchen. And Okiebisu wel­comes in fam­ily din­ers who want to stay awhile, as well as the busi­ness lunch­ers in need of quick sus­te­nance.

First impression­s: A smartly dec­o­rated in­te­rior fea­tures a mix of booths and ta­bles, with a red samurai statue in the cen­ter. (The statue, im­ported from Ja­pan, fea­tures a hel­met that re­sem­bles the restau­rant’s logo.) Against the sleek fur­nish­ings, ex­cel­lent ser­vice cre­ates an invit­ing at­mos­phere. One server came by no fewer than three times to re­fill our wa­ter glasses; an­other of­fered help­ful rec­om­men­da­tions on ap­pe­tiz­ers and desserts and earnestly checked back to see if we’d liked them. Par­ents, take note: I spied no fewer than two tod­dlers in high chairs dur­ing a re­cent week­end visit, and staff cooed at them and made faces.

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ori­ole Park ramen, silky-style chicken broth ramen with wavy noo­dles and fin­ished with a driz­zle of black gar­lic oil and spicy oil at Ramen Ut­suke.

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