By Lynette Carrington
On the Arizona ramen and sushi scene, you can go big, or you can go home. OBON Sushi + Bar+ Ramen went big. Really big. Tucked into a prime spot at the luxurious Scottsdale Quarter, OBON will have you cheering for its relaxed atmosphere, innovative flavors, craft cocktails, quality ingredients and beautiful platings.
The Tucson-based concept will be serving modern interpretations of traditional Japanese fare with Korean influences. “Our team is excited to introduce OBON to the North Scottsdale community,” says OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen Founder, Brandon Katz. “We know that from our diverse menu and innovative bar program, to our hip but approachable atmosphere, people will truly enjoy the dining experience that we’ve created.”
Scottsdale.com was invited out for a media preview prior to the restaurant’s grand opening to the public on August 14, 2017. The OBON menu includes a generous selection of starters, salads, steamed buns, ramen dishes, sushi, signature rolls and main dishes. The restaurant features indoor and patio seating.
Imaginative Spins on Traditional Cocktails
The notable and innovative cocktail program at OBON is overseen by Tucson’s Bartender of the Year and Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender, Beverage Director, Matt Martinez. Front and center on the menu are OBON’s spin on traditional cocktails, plus a variety of seasonal themed highballs. Of current selection of specialty cocktails includes New Growth, Machi 12, Coconut Thyme and the Korean Cooler.
Of these four, the Korean Cooler is really something different that every adult guest should try. The Korean Cooler is a tantalizing cocktail wade with a blend of calpico (a milky Japanese drink) and lemon lime cordial, force carbonated at OBON and served on draft. Somewhat reminiscent of a mild fruit sake, the adorable drink is served in a traditional looking bottle with a ceramic stopper. This creative cocktail is different, refreshing and certainly pairs well with sushi and ramen.
The New Growth cocktail is also quite ambitious. The drink includes snap pea gin, black pepper honey and ginjo sake. Quite remarkable is the way the snap pea infused gin has relieved the typically strong alcohol of its “bite” and is replaced with a fresh and semi-sweet pea flavor and essence. This cocktail is also light and refreshing without being fruity.
OBON boasts a wonderful assortment of small plates that feature something for everyone. I am personally a huge fan of pickled anything, and I simply flipped when I saw the Obonchan – a plate with assorted pickles including radish, ginger and kimchee. We also noshed on a bowl of signature Obon Edamame. In this version, the edamame takes a small bath in OBON Executive Chef Paulo Im’s own signature sauce, which is outstanding. Don’t miss it! Other small plates include Crispy Calamari, Karaage, Shishito Peppers, Katsu Yaki, Papaya Salad and Crispy Shrimp.
Crudos plates primarily feature protein. OBON’s selection includes Jalapeno Albacore, Bonito Bonito, Yuzu Yellowtail, Salmon Carpaccio and Earl Gray Octopus. We first indulged in the Jalapeno Albacore, which featured an outstanding albacore sashimi, Japanese cucumber, ponzu sauce and chive oil. Next we tried the Yuzu Yellowtail, again with fabulous yellowtail sashimi, yuzu kosho, crispy ginger, dashi shoyu and a bit of orange peel. The Yuzu Yellowtail in particular was a perfect orchestration of flavor and texture, with just a bit of citrus playing on the flavorful fish. The added texture of the crispy ginger was a bonus.
If you haven’t had a chance to try steamed buns, think “themed sliders.” These soft and flavorful buns come in four varieties – Bird, Pork Belly, Soft Shell Crab and Spam. We chose the Pork Belly Bun with cucumber, scallions and hoison Chinese mustard and the Bird Bun with fried chicken, pickles and hot sauce. These tasty little devils are as cute as they are delicious. Steam Buns can certainly make a meal, but they are also a lot of fun as a unique happy hour dish. The buns themselves are nearly a stark white and fluffy, with sort of a sponge-y texture and slightly sweet taste. The Pork Bun was soft and tasty, with a slight crunch of cucumber and a fun kick of spicy mustard. The Bird Bun is probably the best choice for someone just trying this dish for the first time and the fried chicken plays predominately on the palate.
Nigiri is definite as a thing slice of raw or cooked fish layered atop a small mound of vinegared rice. Again, we were excited to try the OBON selections because we already knew the fish quality was wonderful. We tried the Hamachi Serrano featuring yellowtail, dashi soy, a bit of ground ginger and topped with the long sprig of chive. We also had the Yuki Salmon, a tasty combination of salmon, white onion, bonito flakes and an absolutely sinful ponzu cream. If you don’t mind a bit of sweet and are trying to steer clear of anything spicy, the Yuki Salmon will be your “go-to” dish. Other nigiri choices in clued the Akami Tuna and the Walu Tataki.
Large Plates, Ramen and Poke
Large plates at OBON include Katsu Pork, Salmon Oyako, Chicken Teriyaki, Poke, Street Noodles, and Bibimbop, among others. We tried the Bibimbop, a colorful assortment of chilled Korean vegetables, marinated beef, and a poached egg. It was unusual to try this kind of dish chilled, but it was delicious and different.
The ramen selection is also wonderful. No matter how you enjoy your ramen, you’ll find a selection that suits you. Choose from OBON, Vegetarian, Shoyu, Tonkotsu, Mikado Ramen (served chilled) and Spicy Kimchi. We chose the OBON, with a soy and pork bone base broth, pork belly and shoulder, bean sprouts and a splash of black garlic oil.
Poke bowls seem to be all the menu rage these days and OBON has its own incarnation of the popular dish. Enjoy sushi rice or mixed greens; then choose tuna, salmon or a rainbow with cucumber, jalapeno, seaweed salad and poke dressing. It’s simply a health and delicious way to get your protein and veggies.
Obon boasts eight unique signature rolls. We simply didn’t have room to try them all, but we did order up a Tsunami Salmon roll, with dakuan, capers, avocado and smoked kelp foam. It was simply one of the best rolls we’ve had in Scottsdale in a long time. Other rolls include spicy salmon, spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, snow crab, yellowtail and more.
OBON will be open for dinner 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Starting later this year, the restaurant will open for lunch service. OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen is located in the Scottsdale Quarter at 15059 N. Scottsdale Rd., Suite J1-195. For additional information, visit www.obonsushi.com or call (602) 491-2796.