Summer is without a doubt the best time to go campus and try some new restaurants. I set out to try Ozu Ramen, a relatively new ramen spot in Campustown. The restaurant is located on South Sixth Street among a handful of other newly opened spots. There is some parking available on Sixth Street, but they are metered spots so be prepared with quarters or download the mobile app to pay the meter.
I went to the restaurant on a Friday night and there was no wait for a table; there were only two other groups seated in the restaurant. The menu is relatively limited which was nice — fewer options can be beneficial if you’re indecisive like me. There were a handful of appetizers at the top of the menu, and after careful consideration between ordering the chicken karaage ($6) or the gyoza ($5), I opted for the latter. The gyoza arrived relatively quickly, and looked great. Gyoza are a pan fried pork dumplings. These in particular had the perfect sear on the outside, and were served with a hot honey ponzu sauce. The sauce was a perfect combination of sweet and spicy. The gyoza were some of the best I have ever had, with perfect portions of pork inside.
I ordered the miso ramen ($13) while my friend ordered the tonkotsu ramen ($12); these also came to the table very quickly after ordering. The presentation of the ramen was just as nicely done as the gyoza. Both of our dishes came with two pieces of grilled pork belly, a half of a soft boiled egg, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fish cake, and scallions. My miso broth was the perfect balance of a meaty yet earthy taste with the right amount of salt. Both pieces of grilled pork belly had distinct and satisfying grill marks, with a nice smoky grilled taste while maintaining incredible tenderness. The fish cake had a nice chew accompanied with a slight sweetness that combined with the meaty broth was wonderful.
The tonkostu was also very tasty, a lighter taste than that of the miso broth, and almost creamier. I did enjoy it as well but I would say the miso was more appealing to my taste buds. Both of our dishes came with more than enough food to fill us up but also to make it worth the money.
The menu also had a few items that were mentioned as “coming soon” including some entrée dishes such as seared salmon and chicken teriyaki. I would be more than excited to try some of those dishes when they are available.
The service from the time we stepped foot into the restaurant until the moment we left was nothing less than amazing. The entire time we were at the table I don’t believe either of our water cups got below half full. The server was very polite and checked on us often enough to ensure that our meal was pleasant, but not too much that it became bothersome. The server was also wearing gloves and consistently changing them after each action she completed which was very pleasing to myself as a consumer to see proper hygiene practices being in place. The server was even so kind as to transfer the remaining ramen into the to-go container for us, away from the table.
The décor of the restaurant was very chill and laid back but also somewhat modern at the same time with very unique finishes such as the light fixtures. It was a somewhat small seating area with tables close to one another so I could see how during busy times it might be rather uncomfortable for someone that likes their space.
Overall, Ozu Ramen featured well done food with quality customer service. I highly recommend checking it out whether you have had ramen before or not — if it is your first time trying ramen this is certainly a good place to start. They even give you free cotton candy after your meal!
Ozu Ramen is located at 601 South Sixth Street, Champaign. Summer hours are noon to 3 p.m and 5 to 8 p.m. daily.
All photos by Brian Plotner.