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Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Osaka Little Japan

Ramen noodles (and sushi) in the Japanese tradition

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Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho are noodle soup meals that are showing up in the most surprising places. The ultra-trendy Ardent has a late-night weekend special featuring their take on ramen and Café Bavaria in Wauwatosa has its own pho. Vietnamese pho is easy to find locally but a place that cooks in Japan’s ramen tradition really did not exist until Osaka Little Japan. It opened in the location of the former Ichiban in April 2013. The interior has been improved, retaining Japanese simplicity with a spare décor of a few shelves of sake bottles. Though there was a smooth ownership change in March of this year, ramen remains the specialty with carefully prepared chicken stock.

The menu begins with a few appetizers, salads and the ramen selections. A few entrées follow, including some Korean items, and a splendid list of sushi. The delectable toro is offered, as are some imaginative specialty maki sushis. Pork gyoza ($4.50) is perfectly fine, fried to a crisp and to be dipped in soy sauce. Tempura ($7.50-$10.50) is listed in the appetizers and also appears in some of the soups. The usual cast of vegetables and shrimp or chicken have a light crisp batter, exactly how it should be (not leaden as happens too often). Sushi is also suitable as a starter. Spicy octopus roll ($6.50) has a filling of minced meat with a dash of spicy heat. The outer layer of rice is sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Tasty stuff.

Vegetarians are in for a treat at Osaka. There are a dozen selections of maki or rolled sushi, and the ingredients are authentic. Oshinke ($4) has a seaweed wrap and a filling of rice and pickled daikon radish. Yamagoro ($4) replaces the radish with mountain burdock root. Inexpensive delights. There are many more nigiri and maki sushi options. For something a little different, try the combinations called Osaka nigiri ($16-$22). The smaller portion has seven pieces topped with five different seafoods. This differs from the standard nigiri as the rice is in the shape of an elongated ball, adding up to less rice and more seafood per piece. The seafood varieties are the whim of the chef but expect standards like salmon, tuna, snapper and yellowtail.

The house standard is the Osaka classic ramen ($7.50). It has plenty of thin wheat noodles in chicken broth topped with chopped scallions, minced dried seaweed, sliced cooked shiitake mushrooms, a slice of fish cake and a cooked egg. The broth has a pleasant spicy character. Miso ramen ($9) tinkers with the broth a bit. It is milder. Toppings are similar, adding some bamboo shoots and tender slices of pork. Tempura udon ($14) uses the much thicker udon noodles instead of the ramen. The presentation is largely similar with pieces of shrimp and vegetable wisely served on the side. Just give these crispy pieces a brief dip in the broth.

Osaka Little Japan is a fine neighborhood noodle spot, classic Japanese and unpretentious. Alcoholic beverage selections are few, mainly beer and wine. It is always reassuring to see the customers here. There are many of Japanese heritage.

 

Osaka Little Japan

2336 N. Farwell Ave.

414-763-0030

$$

Handicapped access: Yes