Namba, as the savvy reader may surmise, is a Japanese-themed restaurant serving ramen and other items inspired by Japanese cuisine. The restaurant opened in December of 2017 and has a provisional menu for the time being.
Namba is a district in the prefecture (the equivalent of a state) of Osaka in central Japan. Koko Pitak, the executive chef, is from Thailand. After initially pursuing an electrical engineering career switched gears and trained in Japan mastering the art of preparing Japanese cuisine.
Chef Koko had previously worked at an Asian-themed restaurant in Naples and I really enjoyed his efforts there. As such, I was anxious to sample his offerings at Namba. For now, having just opened, his culinary repertoire is limited but many menu items will be offered in the near future from this extremely talented chef.
The restaurant, located in North Naples is relatively small, accommodating about 30 diners. They do not take reservations and for now, having just opened, the wait is minimal, at least the Monday night in January we were there.
We had a rather large party (6 diners) and were seated rather quickly. Having so many people in our group, we were able to sample a number of items from Namba’s present Menu.
The first thing sampled was the restaurant’s edamame. Edamame are soybeans, and once cooked, are meant to be squeezed from their seed pods when eating. Although not eaten and used as a flavoring vehicle, the edamame pods at Namba are seasoned with smoked soy sauce, garlic, ginger and for our order, mild chili pepper. They were very good and kept the vegan contingent of our dining party happy.
We also sampled the grilled shishito peppers. These are a sweet Asian pepper, and at the restaurant are grilled and served with a ponzu (citrus) aioli. Besides again mollifying our vegan diners, this starter was also very good.
The gyoza were next, and most definitely passed muster from our dining group. In house made dumplings (fried) are stuffed with Wagyu beef, cabbage, and scallions and topped with a yuzu (citrus)/tahoon sauce. Tahoon is an herb that has both a nutty and subtle onion flavor. Garnished with a carrot puree, this starter is served with a sauce made from black truffle on the bottom and covered with ponzu sauce. If you order this be sure to stir this wonderful condiment before eating!
I am a “sucker” for octopus and had to order the octopus appetizer on the menu. Usuta (Japanese Worcestershire) sauce, pickled beet, grilled tomatoes and yuzu aioli finished this wonderful dish. No matter your point of view on eating cephalopods, this starter is a masterpiece. It is beautifully presented and one of the best, if not the best-grilled octopus dishes I have eaten. Most highly recommended.
We finished our perusal of the small plate menu with a couple of orders of the steamed bao buns. These were excellent, filled with Berkshire pork, lettuce, pickled cucumber and hoisin sauce. Berkshire pork is what is known as a “Heritage” breed. Like heirloom in the vegetable world, heritage Berkshire has been around for many years; this pork being produced for almost 300 years in the UK.
As Wagyu is to beef, Berkshire is to pork, both prized for their heavily marbled fat content. Berkshire pork is also known as Kurobuta pork in Japan. No matter, this small plate was very much enjoyed by the carnivorous contingent of our dining party.
We then moved onto our “mains”, which was a sampling of the ramen offerings here. Our vegan diners ordered, of course, the vegan ramen. The base of this dish was vegetable broth/soy milk and included inari (fried tofu skins), cashew and bean sprouts. It was delicious and thought it had a heavy coconut note. Au contraire chef Koko said, its flavor comes from the in house made soy milk. An excellent menu offering, this will keep any vegan diner happy.
The other ramen dishes here are based on tonkotsu broth, which is a broth made from simmering pork bones for many hours, in this case, seventeen. It is milky white, the color developing only in the final hours of cooking. One of our dining party ordered the beef ramen, which came with thinly sliced beef sirloin sauteed in a shoyu (fermented soy) sauce with ginger, garlic and Asian pear. Seasoned hard-boiled egg half and bean sprouts finished the dish. I did not sample this but as all the other ramen dishes here, looked great.
I ordered the classic pork ramen, which was served with pork chashu slices. Chashu is braised pork belly and is heaven. This particular ramen is also served with red ginger, wood ear mushrooms, nori, bamboo shoots, Japanese pickled plum, spicy bean sprouts and seasoned hard-boiled egg. It was hands down delicious, another fantastic menu item.
Another member of our dining party ordered the Hokkaido ramen, which has a seafood theme. Here, this wonderful tonkotsu broth is flavored with king crab leg, calamari, shrimp, corn, scallions and spicy bean sprouts.
At Namba, one is able to order additional toppings for your ramen. In this case, kamaboko fish cakes were the supplement. This is a processed whitefish that has various flavorings added to it and steamed. It is similar to the Krab that is available in North America but can be prepared in much more aesthetically pleasing ways. This member of our dining party said, “this was the best bowl of soup he had ever eaten”. Having tried another version of this before, I would tend to agree.
We finished with a couple shared orders of the green tea-infused creme brulee, the only dessert available on the maiden limited menu right now. It was good. Visually the dish had one, but I really didn’t taste a pronounced green tea note here. Having said that, if you like creme brulee you will like this dessert.
The food at Namba is very good to absolutely wonderful. You will not have a bad meal here. Although there are many great menu items, the ramen is hands down the best of the bunch right now from what we sampled. I cannot wait for Namba’s menu to expand and have many more offerings. With this extremely talented chef at the helm, only good things can come from this establishment down the road.
It’s a wrap for another post on Forks.
Namba Ramen and Sushi
8847 Tamiami Trail North
Naples, FL 34108
Open Monday-Thursday: 1130AM-10PM; Friday-Saturday: 1130AM-1030PM; Sunday: 5-930PM;
All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; No reservations accepted, seating on a first come, first served basis; Take out available; Kid’s meals on request.