Excitement has been building over the past few months as ramen fans have watched the progress of Osaka Ramen in River North; it's Jeff Osaka's first restaurant venture since he closed Twelve on Larimer Street late last summer. Now there's even more to look forward to: a second Osaka Ramen is also in the works. The chef just signed a lease to take over the space last occupied by Ay Caramba, the torteria that closed last fall in Cherry Creek North. The goal is for the RiNo noodle shop to start serving in March and for the second location to debut in April. Osaka is also opening Sushi-Rama, a sushi bar with conveyer-belt delivered dishes (called kaiten-zushi), just a block away from the Osaka Ramen in RiNo.
Cherry Creek North may not seem like the hippest neighborhood right now, but Osaka thinks it's on the upswing. "While Cherry Creek went through a period of low density, there's a huge resurgence going on in the neighborhood, which is super-exciting," he explains.
The Cherry Creek North eatery is a two-level space that will seat 55 (including the bar), with an additional 25 seats on the enclosed patio. "The two-tiered space is broken up really nicely into smaller areas, which makes it feel quaint and intimate," Osaka notes.
The menu will comprise tonkostsu, shoyu, shio, tantanmen and vegetarian ramen, the last based on Thai green curry with coconut milk. The bowls will come in at $14 each and there will be seasonal specials, like a summer Olathe corn ramen. A range of more than twenty small plates from $4 to $12 will also be available, as will bento boxes with rice, house made tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables) and a variety of protein options such as miso cod, spicy tofu and beef or chicken teriyaki.
The bar will feature sake, soju (a distilled rice spirit) and sixteen tap handles, plus a range of Japanese beers in bottles. The Cherry Creek location will be open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and will also offer take-out options, something not currently planned for the RiNo spot.
In addition to those three upcoming restaurants, Osaka and business partner Ken Wolf are planning to open a new gourmet marketplace in River North in May called the Market (a working name that could change), which will be located in the H.H. Tammen Building at 2669 Larimer Street. The 12,000 square-foot space will host artisan food and beverage producers, including a butcher shop, rotisserie, ice cream vendor, chocolatier, wine bar and fishmonger. "Think of it as an airy and wide-open food hall set up as a gourmet marketplace, where each tenant offers guests something that they can eat onsite, or take on the go," says real estate developer Wolf, who lives six blocks from the site.
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While Denver diners still miss Osaka's enchanting Twelve, we've got plenty to look forward to in the coming months.