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Friday, June 6, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Otaku South at POP Nashville

I have to admit that I did a little happy dance when I heard that the old location of Steve's Restaurant & Bar on the corner of Gallatin and Eastland was being converted into a pop-up restaurant space. I was even more excited when I heard that it was the brainchild of local ramen master Chef Sarah Gavigan. When POP opened not too long ago, I put it on my list of places to check out. We decided to go on a night when Chef Gavigan's Otaku South was serving up some of their acclaimed ramen.
A review of Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
POP is a really simple, clean space that is chic in its absence of adornment. POP is amenable for pop-up restaurants, events and even weddings, so it really needs to be a blank slate that can fit any event. It's easy to imagine all the cool events you and your friends could host here! Large windows on both sides of the space let in large amounts of light and filled the room with a lovely orange magic hour glow. Since the space is fairly empty and devoid of soft surfaces it can get pretty loud, and since it's not large, you sit very close to your neighbors.

Ordering is simple. You read the menu on the wall, you order and pay at the window, and you take your ticket number to your table and wait for your food to arrive. While this sounds simple, for some reason Steve and I either didn't take our number or didn't receive a number, so our order got a tad bit messed up. While mistakes happen, Otaku went above and beyond to make it right. The staff kept checking on our table, apologized, and even brought us some goodies on the house to make up for the wait. That kind of customer service is reason enough to go there.
Sake and strawberry soda at  Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
To start we ordered a hakutsuru cold draft sake and a house-made strawberry soda. The sake was filtered, but still had a mild sweetness about it. The strawberry soda had a really rich deep flavor, but thankfully did not taste like fake sugar. I wish all sodas tasted this fresh!
Pork belly buns at  Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
To start we ordered my favorites, steamed buns with pork belly. The pork inside was very rich and heavily loaded down with the most beautiful fat. It was served with pickled seaweed inside, which enhanced the richness of the meat. The bun itself was light and fluffy like a marshmallow, but without all the sugar. If you go here and don't order this, you are a fool.
Pickle plate at  Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
To make up for the food mishap the waiter brought us over a pickle plate to sample. There was a potato/egg salad, pickled potatoes, carrots, spinach and mushrooms. The potato/egg salad was fluffy and really light. I think I would be the hit at summer parties if I could figure out how to make this. All of the vegetables tasted heavily of vinegar, which is exactly what I expect from a pickle.
Spicy Kimchi Squid rice bowl at  Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
Since I have eaten at Otaku South a bunch of times (read about it here), I figured I was overdue for ordering something that wasn't their tonkotsu ramen. I chose the spicy kimchi squid rice bowl with radish and pickled ginger. The squid was nicely cooked and didn't get chewy, but I was disappointed there were only rings and no tentacles. I LOVE TENTACLES- MORE PLEASE. The kimchi had really good flavor, but just wasn't as spicy as I was hoping for. I like hot stuff that makes me tear up a tad bit. The fresh scallions and greens on top were a nice touch, opening up the dish.
tonkotsu ramen bowl at  Otaku South at Pop Nashville in Nashville Tennessee
Steve went for my favorite and ordered the tonkotsu ramen, which is made with pork broth and pork shoulder. The best part of this dish is the broth, which is very thick and tastes like pig heaven. You can taste the skill and the hours of hard work in this broth. The shoulder was nice and tender, but it's always that golden egg that steals my heart. Otaku South's ramen is always really impressive, hands-down.

As another thank you from the restaurant, they brought us out some Lotus Root Chips that tasted like they were fresh out of the oil. Super thinly sliced, crisp, and seasoned like seaweed, I was surprised by how much this little bowl of "chips" impressed me. 

I already knew that I love Otaku South (hence why I keep going back- and I'll be there more often now that they have a consistent spot in my neighborhood), but I was really impressed with the whole concept of a permanent, well appointed pop-up space. I love the idea of getting to try new food all the time from a rotating cast of chefs! You'd better believe I'll be looking at the POP calendar for upcoming events!
Otaku South @POP on Urbanspoon

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