UPDATE: After nearly 10 years, Ozumo closed in November 2016.
If you just look at my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been obsessing about ramen lately. So when I was invited to check out Ozumo’s new Ramen Wednesdays, I jumped at the chance.
Ozumo is the large Japanese restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood, with a popular happy hour, sushi station and robata grill. They’re no stranger to promotional nights as their All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Mondays draw regular crowds.
It’s also a restaurant in transition as it recently lost its main chef. But during this transition, the other chefs in the kitchen have stepped up, including Chef Dennis Imazumi, whose love for ramen led him to start Ramen Wednesday where every week the chef creates three unique specialty ramen bowls for dinner.
Ramen isn’t new to Ozumo. It’s been offered on the lunch menu for years. But Ramen Wednesday from Chef Imazumi features unique twists to the traditional Japanese soup noodles, such as past offerings like pesto ramen or one topped with Wagyu beef. While some of the ingredients in the special ramen are familiar like nori or poached eggs, others aren’t such as the tender duck breast in the Kamo Shoyu ($16) ramen that I tried when I visited last week.
I recruited my fellow ramen lover, Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, to check out the ramen, and we decided to try all three offerings for the night. The Kamo Shoyu had perfectly cooked duck breast with shredded duck confit, an onsen egg, micro mizuna, in a smoked soy duck broth.
The broth was full-bodied yet still clear and easy to eat, although I didn’t detect too much smokiness, which Chef Imazumi says comes from the smoked soy added to the broth. But overall, it was a well composed bowl with nicely cooked ramen noodles.
The second ramen was Ebi Miso ($15), highlighted by ginger-lime marinated shrimp grilled on the robata grill and then served with green bean salad and onsen egg in a miso dashi broth. It was refreshing to have such meaty shrimp with ramen.
The last ramen was the vegetarian option (Chef Imazumi says there will always be a vegetarian option each week), which turned out to be both Sandy’s and my favorite of the night because of the buttery and meaty mushrooms in the Kinoko Shio ($14) ramen. The broth was a light Okinawan sea salt broth.
My only criticism of the three ramen is the onzen egg that I felt was cooked too soft, making the whites almost glutinous in texture, which takes some getting used to. Also, the bowls might seem small compared to other ramen spots around town, but I felt for the quality of the ingredients the price seemed fair.
The last bite
Chef Imazumi’s love for ramen and creativity is reflected in the experimentation taking place every Wednesday. These aren’t traditional ramen bowls and might be considered upscale ramen, if there is such a thing. What’s nice about the ramen boom in the Bay Area right now is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for traditional ramen, there are several spots now attempting to bring Japanese-focused ramen. But if you’re looking for some fun and surprises in your ramen, Ozumo’s Ramen Wednesday might be the place for you.
The deets: Ozumo, 2251 Broadway (at Grand), Oakland. PH: 510.286.9866. Ramen Wednesday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.ozumooakland.com
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