Monday, January 22, 2018

Namba Nails it in Naples!

Namba Ramen and Sushi could be named  "Osaka" or "Heaven" and folks would still arrive in droves.  It's the kind of place you want kept secret, that special  place you go to share comfort food with special friends and family. Namba is cozy, with 30 seats and a simple, uncluttered decor.

Right off, you notice the staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and works well together. That's uncommon  in a place that's only been open barely a couple weeks. The menu is clearly written, the dishes are beautifully presented.  
Because of the large numbers of people coming to 30 seat Namba during the first two opening weeks, to maintain top quality, server efficiency and decrease wait times, Chef Koko wisely decided to serve,  for the next couple weeks, a menu with some fewer selections, still keeping the most requested items.  That is a good thing-on my Sunday visit from 6 pm to 8 pm, while all table  were full, tables turned over, and there were no lines waiting to be seated. As Namba becomes more popular just by word of mouth, I predict some 7 pm short lines will be seen some nights in Season, so consider arriving by 6 pm or after 8:30 pm when Namba will be less filled!

If you like top quality ramen, then you've come to THE right place. Chef Koko is meticulous about freshness, be it noodles, sushi, pork, duck or edamame.  The prices of Chef Koko's dishes  are VERY reasonable for the portion size and quality. Same goes for beverage prices. Start with a hot sake, hot green tea, organic tea, cold beer, or glass or bottle of wine. I like the Gruner Veltliner and the Pinot Grigio.
Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms 
I like to try unusual offerings, and the Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms ($8) brushed with grapeseed oil, then grilled and tossed in a light wafu Japanese-style seasoned butter 'n topped with red shiso sauce can't be beat for its rich, umami earthy flavors!

 I highly recommend my favorite- the Hokkaido Ramen, $13 for a 10 ounce bowl of flavorful umami-rich broth that cooks for 17 hours. The dish is brimming over with  the house-made noodles, king crab leg, calamari, shrimp, corn kernels, scallions and spicy bean sprouts. It's filling and one of the ramens that you'll have! 
Whole tiger Prawn 
The STAR of my evening is the Whole tiger Prawn ($24), that's got enough tender-sweet meat to match a 1.5 lb lobster's, and the prawn's flavor and texture  are in between that of a prawn and a lobster. The meat is cubed, grilled, then tossed in Asian citrus butter. It's served in the shell, with a side of finely shredded carrots, daikon and micro-cilantro, all topped with a light Asian vinaigrette. Highly recommended!
Beef Hayashi Ramen
My companions and I shared the Beef Hayashi Ramen bowl ($11) with ample creamy-rich  tonkatsu broth,  thin- sliced Black Angus sirloin  sautéed in shoyu sauce with minced garlic, ginger, Asian pear, with a seasoned  Jidori half egg and spicy bean sprouts, all atop house-made noodles. The dish  has a luscious mouth feel!
 It takes a masterful chef and many hours to make the tonkotsu broth's light, creamy color and consistency. The bowl size can be filling for a lighter eater.  

The Hakata Classic Ramen ($10) is a tonkotsu -base broth with tender marinated pork chashu slices,  seasoned Jidori egg half, red ginger, wood ear mushrooms, nori, bamboo shoots, Japanese pickled plum, and spicy bean sprouts. 
Hakata Classic Ramen
Each of the ramen bowls has its unique flavors and textures, order a few different bowls, extra spoons and bowls for sharing, and enjoy comparing and contrasting the flavors! For an extra $1, get another half Jidori egg...I would! Other toppings to add to your ramen bowls include smoked applewood Duck chasu Slices ($2), sautéed Wood Ear Mushrooms ($1), or Fried Red Onions ($1).

 I love the Grilled Octopus ($13) that's slow braised for five 5 hrs, lightly grilled to have just a touch of char, then tossed with a rich Japanese Worcestershire-style sauce. Slice, then dip the octopus into the charcoal smoke-infused Asian citrus aioli on side-that's a treat!
Grilled Octopus
 Savor the  grilled cherry tomatoes as you "pop" them in your mouth, appreciate the tart sweetness of the pickled beets, 
Rock Shrimp
Get a side of Rock Shrimp Tempura ($11) with delicate sweet shrimp in a thin, crisp batter, tossed in seasoned lemon butter, topped with micro Asian mix, then  then accent them with a dip in the tiny saucer of  house-made aioli  with lime, and a touch of chili and cilantro. Hmmm, I wonder what it could be like to dip them in a Thai sweet chili sauce as well?
Karai Edamame
The Karai Edamame ($5/6)is a medium spicy treat-it's pure finger food, with steamed soybeans dusted with salt/smoked soy sauce,garlic, ginger, chili, and topped with a micro Asian mix.  

There are half a dozen vegan items, too, like Namba House Salad, Vegan Ramen, Grilled Shishito peppers, Grilled Asparagus, Karai Edamame, and other small plates.

Finish with a cup of the made in-house Green Tea Brulee ($6), with steamed egg custard infused with green tea, and topped with a caramelized brown sugar crust.

There will be more to follow as I spend another visit at Namba Ramen & Sushi!

8847 Tamiami Trail North, (239) 592-4992

Hours Mon.-Thu: 11:30 am - 10 pm, Fri-Sat:11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sunday 5 pm - 9:30 pm. 

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