Okiboru Tsukemen & Ramen opened earlier this month at the Modera complex on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs.
The first Okiboru opened in Los Angeles’ Chinatown in July 2018, and in 2019 it was awarded a surprise spot on Michelin’s 2019 California Bib Gourmand list.
Okiboru specializes in tsukemen “dipping ramen” — a Japanese dish that consists of thick noodles traditionally served cold with a separate bowl of hot broth to dip the noodles and toppings into, and slurp up with gusto.
The signature Buta Paitan with Gyokai Tsukemen showcases a thick and rich chicken and fish broth, and pork chashu, soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, yuzu zest, scallion and lime are arranged around the noodles.
Essential to the quality, the fresh noodles are made in-house daily from imported Nippon hard wheat flour, and a variety of broths, including pork, and veggie and mushroom, are slowly simmered in huge pots in the kitchen.
In addition to three kinds of tsukemen, the menu offers four kinds of ramen with thin noodles, including Tonkotsu with pork chashu, Truffle Chintan with pork chashu, Tori Chintan with chicken meatballs, and Yasai with tofu and spinach.
Starters and small plates range from a Chashu Wrap, with pickled radish, pork chashu, umami mayo, chives, rayu, and red chiles, to Tebasaki fried chicken wings with garlic soy sauce, sesame seeds, and chives, and braised pork ribs that are grilled to order and served with scallions.
The concise Japanese beverage menu features Hitachino White Ale, Yuzu Saison, and Ginger Beer, three kinds of sake, Ramune sodas, and hot and iced tea.
Located at the front of Modera, directly across the street from Rumi’s Kitchen, the Okiboru build-out blends the traditions of cozy Japanese ramen shops with some clever contemporary touches. Next to the open kitchen, the noodle station displays a cartoonish plexiglass sign with a list of “Eating Tsukemen Dos and Don’ts.”
Last week, managing partners Naoki Kyobashi and Justin Lim sat down at a table at Okiboru to talk about bringing tsukemen to Sandy Springs.
“We felt like Sandy Springs would be a great location for our first place here,” Lim said. “We’re in a good area with 285 and a lot of traffic and diverse demographics. Our mission statement for Okiboru is to introduce tsukemen to the U.S. audience. It’s virtually unknown here. But we thought people would love it as something new.”
“The first tsukemen stores opened in Tokyo back in the ’60s,” Kyobashi said. “Original ramen was always dominant. But dipping was actually a meal for employees, so they could eat something quick. So they decided to separate the noodle and the broth. From there it evolved, and now in Japan, it’s as equally popular as traditional-style ramen.”
Asked about the menu, Lim explained that it’s much bigger and more diverse than what you’d typically find in Japan.
“If you go to a ramen shop in Japan, it’s only ramen,” he said. “And it’s quick. The average eating time is like seven minutes. Obviously, we’re adopting to a more Western style of eating. So we have things like fried wings and fried shrimp and edamame. We put our own spin to it, and we tried to create something very unique that people have never experienced before. You won’t find most of the menu items together anywhere else in Atlanta. We have a big kitchen, and we have five stockpots going all day long, morning and night.”
“We designed the space to bring the essence of Japan, and be casual and cozy and clean, and somewhat authentic,” Kyobashi said. “Being Japanese, I wanted to make sure whatever we serve in our restaurant would be accepted by Japanese people as well as other people. The Japanese population of Atlanta is growing, so we want to bring that experience to the table.”
Above and beyond everything else, though, Lim said the main dish at Okiboru is tsukemen, and tsukemen is mostly about the noodles.
“We couldn’t find the exact noodles that we found in Japan,” he said. “So we had to go to Japan and learn how to make the noodles ourselves. We bring in flour from the oldest flour mill company in Japan. The reason it’s so good is that it’s very, very high in protein.
“We mix in four different types of flour to give it the texture and chewiness. We use a noodle machine from Japan, and we measure each roll to get the perfect thickness and density. And we even measure the density of the broth. It’s all about the details, and I think that’s why we were awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand.”
6125 Roswell Road, Suite 800, Sandy Springs. 404-998-5333, okiboru.com.
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