Courtesy of Concentrics
It was only a matter of time. Mihoko Obunai has announced that she’s leaving the pop-up circuit to open a full-service ramen restaurant with Concentrics called Nexto. Set to open in March or April, it will be located next to Two Urban Licks at 822 Ralph McGill Boulevard in the Old 4th Ward. The star chef trained at Ramen Lab in New York City and has hosted pop-ups at the Sound Table and Huge Café. Now she shares her plans below.
Where did the name Nexto come from?
It’s next to TWO Urban Licks. That’s why. I didn’t decide it. It’s Bob Amick creating the name and logos and stuff.
How did you get with Concentrics?
I’ve known Bob Amick since I moved from New York City to Atlanta. Bob talked to me a couple months ago saying he knows I’ve been doing ramen at different places and that I bring a great cuisine to Atlanta. He’s been wanting to open a ramen shop for a couple years. They got permits and design done and were looking for a chef. He says I’m the only one he can think of to bring real Japanese cuisine and Japanese soul food. I’ve been cooking for 20 years. Cooking is my passion. He said, ‘This is your place and you can do what you want.’
My sons are 11 and 6. They love eating ramen. They are like, ‘Now is the time to open your own shop.’ I’m tired of doing pop-ups where the space doesn’t belong to me. I’ve missed all the teamwork.
What type of ramen will you serve?
I haven’t started any tastings yet, but we’ll have to have a vegetarian option, and chicken- and pork- based ramen. We’ll be using local and seasonal ingredients. It’ll be traditional stuff, something I like to eat.
What else is on the menu?
Small dishes—appetizers like Japanese fried chicken or yakitori (grilled skewers). Ramen will be the main course. We’ll have all the toppings so you can add different things to create bigger bowls. The location is right in Midtown and people there love to eat trendy stuff.
I don’t think we’ll have a pastry chef. We’ll probably have one or two signature items for dessert, something Japanese using ouzu or green tea. I don’t eat sweet stuff. I like salty and spicy. Maybe it’ll be ice cream or something easy and quick that everyone loves—nothing crazy.
What about at the bar?
Liquor, wine, sake, and Japanese beer. Bob is drafting a sommelier to create a great wine and sake list that will go well with ramen.
What will the space look and feel like? It’s about 2,000 square feet. With the bar and community tables, it can probably seat 60 to 80 people. We’ll have an open kitchen with a counter like a typical ramen shop in New York or Japan. It’s a casual setting with a lot of light, vaulted ceilings, and a natural feel. It’s simple.
Will Nexto accept reservations?
I don’t think we’ll take reservations because ramen is supposed to be ‘come in and eat and go,’ so we want to turn the tables.
Will you still be doing the pop-up at Huge Café? What about any other pop-ups?
No, I’m done with pop-ups.