Finally, Charlotte Has a Ramen House Thanks to Futo Buta
Anyone who has experienced the first season of “Mind of a Chef” on PBS (but most importantly also on Netflix) has been drooling over the brothy Japanese noodle craze that is upscale ramen. But even if you haven’t, forget whatever instant mess of noodles you remember having in college, unless you’re cooking it like this, and drop by the cozy new restaurant run by Chef Michael Shortino, formerly of Baku in SouthPark.
Futo Buta, located on the Bland Street Station in SouthEnd,Â is everything we love about a new upstart eatery in the Queen City. It’s intimate, delicious, full of natural light and has quirky design elements throughout the dining roomâ€”plus an ever-pleasurable patio. At its roots, Futo Buta (roughly translating to “fat pig” in English) is humble. The meal you go there to have is nothing more than some broth, some noodles and some simple but tasty garnishes. Except that the execution and care put into each dishÂ portends of an establishment steeped in exceptional class, culture and composition.Â The decorations are stark but fun, so the overall experience is layered with clean simplicity and complex flavors.
For example, through the pass window, customers can look at the water tower-sized stock pots that simmer their contents for hours on end wringing every molecule of flavor from animalÂ bones and stewing vegetables out until a savory pungent stock is wrought from their depths. The ramen bowls, which were individually handmade by William Baker Pottery for Futo Buta, come out laden with everything from silky leeks and crunchy cabbage to perfectly soft boiled eggs and pork belly that envelopes the tongueÂ with a creamy umami flavor generally only attributed to confits or foie grasâ€”I would very literally spread that pork belly fat on bread if I could. That said, there is also vegan ramen on the menu.
So here is what you need to know: the ramen houseÂ is open everyday of the week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Friday and Saturday when it is open “until.” They are on a limited menu currently, but expect to roll out the full list of dishes soon (including sushi). No cocktails on the menu, but the beer, wine and sake selection is adequate. Their prizedâ€”and praisedâ€”tonkatsu ramen, made with a house pork bone broth, sells out very quickly, so don’t expect to order it after being out all night (we see you all riding home full of booze on the LYNX), but not to worry because their other ramenÂ bowlsÂ are still lightyears beyondÂ other late-night eats in the area, and you’re already on the light rail so there’s no reason not to stop in. Go for the ramen, but stay for the steam buns. The Lowcountry pork belly bun is definitely a highlight. It also brings to mind another point I liked about Futo Buta. They serve classically Japanese cuisine, but put a spin on the ingredients to reflect local produce and heritage. Did I mention they also make their own noodles in house? Because they do, and they are meant to be slurped and burped Japanese style.
When you do make it out to Futo Buta, let us know how it was and either comment below or message us on social media.