I wonder if the landlord of the building at 486 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando has a stipulation in the lease that the corner unit must be occupied by a ramen shop. Previously, it was the home of not just a ramen restaurant but The Ramen.
And now is it Takumi Ramen, which opened only a few weeks ago but is already serving delicious food even while finishing touches to the decor continue. Even more impressive than the food was the warm and gracious greeting the staff gave me when I walked in to place an order. Granted, there were no other customers in sight so they may have just been delighted to see anyone.
But still, the genuinely warm welcome and eagerness to please were appreciated.
I of course wanted to try the ramen and ordered the tonkatsu. But I was just as eager to try one of the Japanese curry rice bowls. Japanese style curries are a favorite of mine and I see them too infrequently on local menus. They differ from their Indian counterparts in that they’re thicker and more gravylike – indeed a butter and flour roux is incorporated into the stew.
I ordered the curry don with chicken karaage, which had the gravy, seasoned with garlic and ginger and with big slices of cooked carrots and potatoes, served in a bowl alongside fluffy white rice. The chicken, breaded and deep-fried nuggets, sat on top. The meat was tender and the taste was good, but frankly I was happy just with the curry and rice.
The tonkatsu ramen was served with the noodles and ingredients separated from the silky pork broth. The dry ingredients included a just-right hard boiled egg, a slab of seaweed nori, bean sprouts and shredded kikurage (wood ear) mushrooms along with sliced of grilled pork. Once the broth was added, it was a delicious feast.
For an appetizer, I had a pork bun, a puffy bao folded over a large hunk of meat, enough there to qualify as another entree.
While I waited for my food, the young woman who took my order came to where I was sitting and pointed out that I had added up the check incorrectly – the error was in favor of the restaurant but she wanted to let me know she had corrected it. And then she brought me a glass of ice water without my having to ask. How nice to experience exceptional service again.
I don’t know why The Ramen didn’t succeed here. Maybe it had to do with the effects the pandemic had on downtown offices and a reduction of foot traffic. The now-abandoned Sentinel building at one time had enough workers to keep several restaurants in business. But I think Takumi Ramen (which, by the way, apparently is not related to Takumi Sushi and Ramen on the west side of town) will find a following for their good Japanese food and wonderful hospitality.