Osaka: A Taste of Japan Just Down the Block

By Margaret James

Ramen. It’s a food most of us associate with more frugal college days. And it may not be the best of associations. But the East Side’s newest Japanese restaurant, Osaka, might just change your mind. Now occupying the former site of Ichiban, at 2336 North Farwell Avenue, Osaka has revitalized Murray Hill’s Japanese cuisine options. Opened by husband and wife team Jin San Koh and Jenny Kim at the end of April 2013, Osaka boasts a Korean-infused Japanese menu of ten varieties of Ramen in addition to Udon noodle dishes, classic and house sushi rolls. But with it’s quiet opening, Osaka may have slipped below the radar of the East Side’s noodle seekers.

Though the restaurant seating area is small, the atmosphere encourages an intimate yet casual dining experience. The sushi bar separates the dining room from the kitchen, offering solo diners a social spot without taking one of the few tables. On busier nights Osaka may be crowded, but there is rarely a wait for a table. And with the delicious menu, finding a table right away may come as a surprise. In that rare circumstance where a wait is required, the wonderful service received when you sit down more than makes up for it. The entire staff of Osaka, which often includes the owners popping out from the kitchen to assist, is kind, attentive, and does everything possible to make your dining experience great.

Osaka serves wonderfully fresh sushi, sashimi and rolls; both classics, like a Dragon Roll, and house specialties, like the Oklahoma Roll. And while the sushi is a delight, the real gem of this establishment is a soul-warming bowl of ramen. Made in-house with traditional recipes, Osaka’s ramen puts the Japanese noodle dish front and center. Each steaming bowl of ramen uses chicken broth made from scratch as a backdrop to the delectable noodle, nori, cabbage, and mushroom combination. And it’s topped with the ubiquitous hard boiled egg and meat. But vegetarians of the area shouldn’t worry, the No-Meat Ramen is made with a veggie-friendly broth that gives all other broths a run for their money. (The secret ingredient for the depth of flavor? Apples!)

Every meal at Osaka is previewed with a salad featuring a delicious house dressing and gigimi, a Korean style veggie pancake. No matter what you order for your entree, be it sushi or ramen, you will not be disappointed. Have friends that turn up their noses at sushi? Tell them to try the Miso Ramen. With a Friday Night Fish Fry, if you need a relaxing place to unwind on a Friday evening Osaka is the place to go! Feeling adventurous this winter? Try the tasty Fall and Winter Special of Kimchi Ramen; it may be an acquired taste (and you must love spicy food), but it will not let you down! For a reasonable price (ramen dishes range from $7.75 – 13) you’ll have a delicious meal, and with the portions the sizes they are, a tasty lunch for the next day! If it’s lunch you’re craving, you’re in luck; Osaka serves lunch specials Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Dinner hours are Tuesday through Thursday 4:30 pm to 9:00 pm; Friday 4:30 pm to 10:00 pm; Saturday 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm; and Sunday 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Mondays Osaka remains closed.

So, Murray Hill, when you’re out and about town looking for a great new place to eat, stop by Osaka, where ramen is no longer the dinner of starving college kids, but will have you coming back for more.