A culinary revolution has erupted in the San Antonio community. Talented chefs and creative mixologists have expanded their repertoires with fresh ingredients and ideas. They have ignited the people’s taste buds with their innovations, which, in turn, has led to an array of culturally-diverse eateries throughout the city.

Among those new, exciting establishments is Nama Ramen.

Situated in an eclectic, northwest side shopping center on Babcock, the relatively new Japanese restaurant sports a collection of well-crafted sushi delicacies as well as succulent ramen for those who prefer their fish cooked. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that the establishment is “BYOB,” and guests are encouraged to visit the neighboring liquor store, Beverage Delite, which contains a nice assortment of sake (Japanese Rice Wine) to enhance the Japanese dining experience.

Considering sushi is one of my favorite food groups, I was excited to give this new place a try. It was a little difficult to find at first. Then again, it was dark and my irritation with the classy individual with the F5000 truck from the 1980’s that took up three parking spaces had surely clouded my vision. That being said, the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere really adds to Nama’s charm and character.

At the time of my visit, the restaurant was filled with a diverse assortment of college students and families, blending together in an elegant tapestry that complimented the pop culture idols expertly painted on the walls. The mural dedicated to anime and other fictional characters is amazing, sporting a hand-drawn and painted Shenron—the dragon from the “Dragon Ball Z” universe—at the center. Even further creative genius can be, surprisingly enough, found in the restroom.

The wall art is not the only homage to comics and other fan favorites. The sushi rolls contain references that many diners will recognize and enjoy. The “Amy Jo Johnson Roll” is named after the actress who played Kimberly Hart in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and for those familiar with the Star Wars universe, the “Mandalorian Roll” is a reference to the infamous Star Wars bounty hunter, Boba Fett, who delivered Han Solo to the clutches of Jabba the Hutt. While I was familiar with some of the pop culture references in the menu, I enjoyed googling the names and learning their origins.

After perusing their menu, I selected the Amy Jo Johnson, the Samurai, and the Hatori Hanzo rolls. My friend, Devin ordered some ramen which I was excited to try. Since becoming a college student, I was determined not to become “that college kid,” who eats nothing but ramen noodles, pizza rolls, and Nutella. I will admit to having a drawer full of chocolate goodies I purchased one hungry night at CVS. Real adults have candy stashes, but I digress.

The ramen came out first, and I quickly learned two things from this experience: eating ramen noodles with chopsticks is hard, messy, and very embarrassing when you’re sitting so close to strangers. And, they are absolutely delicious.

The broth was good, not too salty and provided a good balance for the dish. The ingredients were fresh, especially the pork belly which I could not get enough of. The noodles appeared slightly saltier than the broth, but it did not detract from my enjoyment. In between dropping noodles on the table, my lap, and accidentally flinging them on the table next to me, I can honestly say that I have been missing out all these years.

The sushi rolls came out soon after, and from the first bite, I was in heaven. The Hatori Hanzo, packed a punch with jalapenos and sriracha, but the heat is offset by the tart yuzu sauce and crisp cilantro within the roll, providing a good balance.The Amy Jo Johnson was succulent and fresh, with yellowtail, salmon and avocado inside, and fresh tuna and green onions outside. The staff brought me an extra side of yuzu, the same sauce on top of the Hatori Hanzo, and it provided a nice acidic addition to the roll.

Last but not least, the Samurai roll offered more spicy deliciousness. With the wonderful combination of shrimp, cilantro, green onions and avocado on the inside, and the savory yellowtail, salmon and avocado on the outside, my mouth was in love. The jalapeno slices and sriracha were a bit much, and I wound up picking off the peppers for a milder flavor. That being said, it was a wonderful conclusion to a meal that could only be described as divine.

Given the proximity to UTSA, Nama Ramen appears to be a youthful locale, intended as a reprieve for students, but make no mistake, children and adults alike can enjoy the amazing concoctions currently being served at this gem in San Antonio’s northwest side.

Banzai!

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