Chef Mihoko Obunai has been serving ramen at pop-ups all over town, so I was really excited to hear of her partnership with Concentrics to open Nexto. Basically a shed in the parking lot behind the Telephone Factory, the restaurant shares valet with Two Urban Licks next door and serves ramen, along with a small selection of Japanese-inspired dishes and cocktails.
LC and I visited on a Thursday, usually a busy night for Atlanta restaurants, so we were surprised to find this hot new ramen spot half empty, and the chef notably absent. The space was a bit chilly, with many guests keeping their jackets on.
Wood-framed green glass tables surround red ones in the center of the open space. We started with cocktails made with the Japanese fermented liquor called shochu. LC tried the Raba with pineapple ginger syrup while I ordered the Chu-Hai with lemongrass infused gin and lychee. Both were light and fizzy, perhaps better suited for warm weather. Later, the manager came by and offered us a complimentary round suggesting I try this sparkling Shirakawago Nigori, an excellent choice.
I know a bit about Japanese cuisine and was interested in the Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake with squid, but when I inquired about how it was prepared, our server compared it to an American pancake, conjuring up images of fluffy breakfast pancakes that I loathe. I was craving the crepe-like version with scallions served in Chinese restaurants, but didn’t dare risk ordering it here.
Our server also didn’t recommend the Crispy Gyoza, describing them as “covered with cheese”. Cheese on gyoza? Surely she was delusional. Gyoza are little fried or steamed dumplings filled with meat, duck in this case. Nexto’s were indeed crispy, despite being covered with (gasp!) cheese. This was not mentioned on the menu. I was horrified, yet somewhat delighted as well.
Along with a small selection of hot and cold plates, Nexto offers a few grilled items, prepared on a traditional Japanese robata grill. Binchotan coals are used to give meats a rich, smoky flavor. We ordered two, the Wagyu Steak and Diver Scallops. Served on a subtly sweet mound of curried spaghetti squash, two large scallops were delicate in flavor and texture.
Much of the Wagyu steak was equally tender, but we did encounter a few tough bites. It was sliced and presented on grilled green onions. The yuzu koshu sauce listed on the menu was absent but luckily, the flavor of the charred meat was good enough on its own, and a sizeable serving for $16.
Finally, the ramen arrived! We ordered the Kurobuta Tonkotsu with pork belly, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), scallions, a soft boiled egg, and those squiggly noodles. We requested a side of the garlic (too much!) habanero sauce, one of several add-ons available. The slice of pork belly was nicely charred around the edges and the egg yolk was perfectly creamy. LC and I took turns slurping up the noodles and rich broth, adding more and more hot sauce as we went.
Our relatively light meal left room for a couple of scoops of ice cream in my favorite Asian flavors, red bean and matcha (green tea) topped with chewy bits of toasted coconut.
I’ll be back to try more ramen offered at Nexto, like the spicy bacon miso and the ebi shoyu with shrimp. And…maybe the pancake.
828 Ralph McGill Boulevard 404-809-3763