Nao is the Time

Nao Ramen House Opens Tomorrow in Rice Village

On December 1, the slurping begins at the former 55 Bar & Restaurant.

By Alice Levitt November 30, 2016

Spicy miso 2 qpjokn

Spicy miso ramen is one of six varieties available at Nao.

Let's get this out of the way, vegetarians. There are four different broth bases at Nao Ramen House. And yes, the vegetable one is vegetarian. But vegans, don't get too excited just yet—the noodles, made from famed manufacturer Sun Noodle, is crafted using eggs, so you'll have to enjoy your soup noodle-free for now. 

But meat eaters are even better off. Pork, beef and chicken bones are each boiled for close to 24 hours to rich effect for a total of five soups, including classics like pig-rich tonkotsu, but also innovations such as red curry made with a chicken base. Owner Piran Esfahani, who ran 55 Bar & Restaurant in the space until last month, initially says that his relatively unadorned ramen bowls aren't "chef-driven." But chef Rob Frias adds unexpected touches nonetheless. A spoonful of the beefy shoyu ramen reveals the crunch of bacon; in the spicy miso, there's sweet Asian pear.

Following last night's soft opening, the team has already decided to scale back the menu for the first few weeks of service. The yakitori dishes they originally announced will have to wait (for now, try similarly spanking new Yokushi Robata in Greenway Plaza for Japanese meat on a stick). Shio ramen is also off the list for now, as are tofu dishes.

What does that leave diners? The most popular dish at the friends-and-family preview meals has been the Kyoto Fries — crisp Kennebec potatoes drizzled with eel sauce, Kewpie mayo and dusted with spicy furikake seasoning, then topped with meaty short ribs. Flesh lovers will also be delighted by the crisp pork belly bao. Other steamed buns are filled with soft shell crab or short ribs.

Blessed with pleasant patio weather for Nao's opening, early visitors will likely want to sit outside for a drink. These include Japanese whiskeys, sakes and both local and Asian draught beers. Cocktails are on the creative side for a ramen bar, with featured tipples including the Blue Blushing Dragon, which pairs blueberries with Patrón Citrónge mango, vodka, soda and lavender syrup. Litchi plays a role in several drinks, including a martini, a mule and a Japanese take on the margarita.

And if the 250 who attended the friends-and-family dinner that was intended for 50 is any indication, Nao is going to be a bit busy in the weeks to come.

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