Japanese Pops Up in Nashville
Japanese Pops Up in NashvilleOctober 24, 2012
Sarah Gavigan is obsessed with ramen. The Tennessee native spent 17 years in L.A. before returning to Nashville in 2009 cultivating a love for all kinds of comforting Japanese country food, the kinds of dishes served in Japanese gastro-pubs called Izakayas like fried and grilled yakitori, rice dishes, steaming bowls of ramen, and pickles. Gavigan’s obsession is coming to fruition in the form of her Nashville pop-up ramen shop and Izakaya called Otaku South (Otaku roughly means “the obsessed”). She held Otaku’s first pop-up dinner in late September at 12 South Taproom in Nashville, and it sold out quickly, as did the second one this past Monday night at the Catbird Seat.
“Here in the South, we really have a thing for comfort food,” Gavigan says. “Japanese food is comfort food, and it reminded me of Southern food when I’d eat in the Izakayas south of L.A. Both Japan and the South love pork, okra, pickles, fried chicken, potato salad, and coleslaw -- the Japanese have their own versions of both potato salad and coleslaw, if you can believe it. But here in Nashville, there was no traditional Japanese food to be found.”
Gavigan sources many of her ingredients, including pork bones for the tonkatsu ramen’s rich, emulsified broth, locally. Monday night’s menu included tsukemono (Japanese style pickles), an array of yakitori (fried and grilled skewers) including one made with pheasant meatballs (below left), tonkatsu ramen, pear sorbet, and a rice ball stuffed with spicy tuna (below right) to finish the meal.
She aims to stick with the pop-up concept for now (and may hold events in other cities), but isn’t ruling out a brick and mortar spot at some point down the line. The next pop-up is at Barista Parlor in Nashville on Sunday, October 28, from 4:30 pm until the ramen’s gone—no reservations required.
Follow Sarah and Otaku South, on Twitter (@OtakuSouth), and on Facebook for the latest.