Attention to detail makes Obento Ramen Bar's food a flavour bomb
Beyond the headline ramen there are many Asian delights to sample at this small eatery in Parkmore, Joburg
If you’ve been suffering from a case of the cold-weather blues, a hot steaming bowl of ramen may be just the thing you need to boost your mood.
Hailing from Japan, these umami-rich dishes of noodles floating in a flavourful broth aren’t new to Joburg, but one of the newest iterations comes in the form of Obento Ramen Bar, which recently opened its doors in Parkmore, Sandton.
“Obento” is the word for a Japanese-style lunch box — it’s also a fitting description of how this ramen bar owned by Ling Chiu and Daniel Liu came to be.
When Chiu’s friends saw the type of dishes she was cooking up and posting on Instagram during the hard lockdown last year, many came knocking at her door to have their lunch boxes filled, tired of their own cooking.
This evolved into a delivery service of Asian dishes in Joburg north and a short stint at the Fourways Farmers Market. Realising that there was a demand for the type of food they were cooking up, Chiu and Liu took the plunge and opened a sit-down eatery.
The restaurant is on the small side with only a few tables (rest assured there is enough Covid-19-compliant space between them) and a bar at the back, but they do take reservations.
On the chilly day I visited they had a constant stream of customers for both sit-down meals and takeaways, which seemed to be popular. As Chiu and Liu were still finding their feet, service started out slow, but I imagine they will be in the full swing of things in no time.
To start I ordered the vegetarian and BBQ pork bao (R55 per portion of two). The vegetarian steamed buns — filled with cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and vermicelli noodles — were perfectly good but paled in comparison with the sticky, sweet, salty pork variety that I would order again and again.
For mains, I opted for the tonkatsu ramen made with pork bone broth and pork belly, and topped with baby bok choi, nori (seaweed), corn kernels, bamboo shoots and spring onion. As is to be expected, the finishing touch was a hard-boiled egg, which was marinated and cooked to perfection with a custard-like consistency.
The cost of R160 for a bowl of ramen may seem steep but it’s small details like these that take time to get right — and the beautifully cooked pork — that made it a price well worth paying.
The smells making their way from nearby tables were incredible and though I had every intention of sampling a bite of Korean chicken, the portions are generous and so I couldn’t even finish my bowl of ramen.
Other main menu options include vegetarian and beef ramen, katsu curry and a Buddha bowl. Under starters there’s also popcorn chicken, honey garlic chicken, cucumber salad and toasted and seasoned edamame beans. Personally I would have loved to have seen a selection of dumplings as well.
Ignoring my previous lamentations about the weather — and how full I was — I had to try their ice creams for which they’ve partnered with friends who are avid ice cream makers.
The mango, which was served as a palate cleanser at the start of the meal, is phenomenal, and the matcha ice cream I had for dessert was a beautiful mossy green though somewhat icy. The toasted black sesame ice cream was delicious and next time I intend to try the cashew nut butter flavour.
True to Obento Ramen Bar’s origins, these ice creams as well as a range of frozen meals are available to buy in-store to take home.
• Obento Ramen Bar is located at Shop 18, Parkmore Square, cnr 11th and Olympia Avenue, Parkmore, Sandton. It’s open from 12pm to 8pm Tuesday to Wednesday, from 12pm to 9pm Thursday to Saturday, and 12pm to 7pm on Sundays. Call 064-704-6265 or visit obento.co.za