Ramen is the Nexto Trend
Chef Mihoko Obunai Opens Old Fourth Ward Ramen Concept
Ramen has evolved far beyond a college student’s meal, and part of its popularity in Atlanta came from Chef Mihoko Obunai. She was the brains behind Soundtable’s pop-up, Ramen Freak, that launched in 2014.
Since her start in Atlanta as coowner of Repast, which closed in 2010, Obunai has been featured in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Ramen was always her first love, and her past few years have been devoted to the noodles, studying at Ramen Lab in New York City and competing as the lone female Ramen Master at the First Annual Ramen Battle in Brooklyn in October 2015. Her ramen pop-up, Ramen Freak, launched in Atlanta in 2014 at The Sound Table and drew a loyal fan base that showed that ramen can survive on a stand-alone menu.
Nexto is the result of Obunai’s studies of ramen and the influences of growing up in Japan, where her mother regularly cooked Japanese staples that Obunai now uses in her ramen, like wakame, wagyu beef and a variety of mushrooms, such as enokitake, maitake and shiitake. Along with ramen variations of spicy bacon, beef tartar mazemen and curry tofu, Nexto’s menu features traditional Japanese fare. Many of the dishes are influenced by Obunai’s mother: okonomiyaki, a savory pancake with shrimp, bacon and cabbage; yakibuta, a mix of pork belly, cheeks, collar and short rib; steamed buns; and offerings of wagyu beef, sake salmon and foie gras.
Nexto is located at 828 Ralph McGill Boulevard in the same warehouse building as Two Urban Licks, another restaurant in the Concentrics group.
STORY: Alexa Lampasona
Photo: Heidi Geldhauser, Our Labor of Love