Say Hello to Obon, Downtown’s New Sushi and Ramen Shop

June 24, 2015

One of Chef Paulo's creations: Crispy Calamari Salad

A Chef Paulo’s creation: Crispy Calamari Salad

by Liz Felix

There’s more deliciousness making its way to Downtown Tucson this summer and if sushi, ramen, and sake are your thing, you’ll definitely want to keep close tabs on the opening of Obon, a contemporary sushi and ramen spot that’s set to open in mid-August.

The closure of Gio Taco on Congress and 4th meant there was a hole to be filled and with the revitalization of Downtown, it didn’t take long for someone to take interest. Enter Brandon Katz. As a native Tucsonan, Katz always had love for Downtown Tucson. After returning home after living outside of Arizona for seven years and seeing what was happening on Congress, he felt inspired and saw a chance to bring something different to Downtown.

“The corner of Congress and 4th comes with so much opportunity and plays such a huge role as the entrance to Downtown, we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” says Obon owner Brandon Katz.

Black Tea Old Fashioned, a Matt Martinez concoction.

Black Tea Old Fashioned, a Matt Martinez concoction.

A Japanese restaurant that incorporates new and innovative cooking methods and flavor profiles, Obon will be mixing things up but with careful dedication to the traditional. “We will differ from other sushi spots by really holding true to the preparation of Japanese food and the freshness it calls for. We will absolutely lean on the American palate and create items for the masses, but we are not going to compromise the roots of the Japanese culinary scene,” says Katz.

Helping Obon stay close to the traditional Japanese preparation methods will be Chef Partner, Paulo Im. Trained by chefs from Korea and Japan, Im brings with him what Katz calls, “a combination of techniques that is hard to find in a chef.”

Obon’s menu will have a variety of Japanese foods including shareable entrees of crudos, tempura, hand-rolled dumplings, miso cod and salads. Although Obon is primarily a sushi bar, the menu will also feature a small but very appetizing ramen selection. The Obon team is still working on finalizing their ramen broth options in time for the opening. “We are leaning toward three broth options – tonkotsu, shoyu, and a combination of the two,” says Katz. “We are testing several varieties using pork belly, pork shoulder, sous vide eggs, chicken thigh, brisket, and fresh chili.”

Salad anyone? Another dish from the Obon test kitchen.

Salad anyone? Another dish from the Obon test kitchen.

If you’re wondering what the drink selection will be like at Obon, Katz says guests can expect a mixture of Japanese and American craft beer, wine, an extensive sake list, and a cocktail menu created by Bar Manager Matt Martinez that combines both craft and speed. “We don’t like waiting long for our cocktails and don’t want our guests to either,” says Katz.

Renovations have been underway and all seems to going as planned. Katz is doing a complete overhaul and plans to “feature a lot of finished birch wood” but the patio is where the design will shine. A 6-foot wooden door will invite guests into Obon’s patio, which will have plenty of seating including a lounge area with comfy couches. Obon’s tables, chairs and wooden fixtures were custom made and most importantly, they’re all made locally.

A bowl of ramen from the test kitchen of Obon.

A bowl of ramen from the test kitchen of Obon.

As Downtown Tucson continues to grow and change, Katz is confident that Obon will satisfy both the student crowd and local residents. “We are going to have great happy hour and late night specials for all to enjoy and want to create an environment true to the name, a place for family and friends to congregate and enjoy food, drink, and one another.”

With the official start of the Obon Festival (also known as The Lantern Festival) happening on August 15, Katz is planning on having a special event in honor of the festival and to celebrate the restaurant’s opening. For more information and updates on Obon, visit their Facebook page here.