What do you think about when you see this sign? futobuta
My couple months living here in Charlotte, I’ve walked by the store a few times without paying much attention except noticing the popularity of the place. When the weather was still nice (
unlike now when it’s cold like… let’s just not talk about it), even the patio area was full of people. 2 weeks ago, during the Christmas / New Year holiday, I walked around the light rail one of the evenings, and it was then for me to notice the place serves… Ramen!!! To my surprise, out of all the places in Charlotte, there’s a ramen shop not too far from my apartment. That’s the night I thought to myself I shall come over to try at some point.
The other day, A. came to visit me and asked me if there’s anything I’d like to try. I thought about this ramen shop but could not remember the name. Luckily, yelp did not fail me. Sort of a picky and indecisive eater myself, I spent a good while reading people’s reviews, and also some articles and reviews online about futobuta (ふとぶた in Japanese, also known as fat pig in English)
Here are some infos I gathered from the internet before trying the place:
- some say good, some say so-so, but mostly agreed it is overpriced
- the fire-and-ice ramen is voted 1 of 50 the must eats in Charlotte
- good reviews on the smoked pork belly bun (be aware of the small size though!)
- good reviews on the ice cream, but be prepared for the $$$
- fairly new store – opened the mid of 2015, around the same time I moved here
- the ramen bowls are unique made by local artist in North Carolina
I’ve checked futobuta‘s online menu before going there, so we came prepared it won’t be a cheap meal. And in case you’d like to get an idea of the price difference, ramen usually costs around $6-$9 from Japanese chained ramen shops, local Japanese eateries, etc. on the west coast. Therefore, paying $12-$14 for a bowl of ramen surely isn’t cheap. That being said, A. and I figured we should still try it for the sake of experience. Off we go to futobuta!
Reminiscence to the Japanese ramen shops I’ve been, futobuta is a small shop with narrow seatings. There’s a bar area where you can see the open kitchen and the chef preparing your food. There’s a section of high chairs where you’d be sitting close to strangers eating alone, or eating with friends (but it’s just super crowded and narrow especially for winter), and then towards the end of the restaurant there are some tables too. We were lucky to take the last 2 people table that night. I am a pretty tiny person but even I found it pretty narrow – couldn’t really find a place to put my gloves, thick coat, earmuffs, etc. I guess it’s giving everyone a taste of Japan? Tokyo to be specific 😛
The graphic of a fat big eating the bowl of ramen and sake can be considered the ‘masterpiece’ art in the store. At the end of the meal, the staff would also include a postcard of this exact graphic for you to take home as a souvenir. I found this graphic especially interesting because it kind of shows futobuta‘s blend between the east and west.
Simple & easy to understand menu selections.
Originally I requested hot water because it was very cold, but the hot water tasted strange (I felt like I could taste chlorine…) so I just settled for lukewarm water. After looking at the menu, A. and I decided we’d get one of our favorite Japanese street eats kara-age から揚げ Japanese fried chicken as the appetizer. A. had tonkotsu, while I went with the miso. I’m not a big fan of ramen after my ichiran incident (that I shall write in another post at some point), so part of me was suspicious about what I’d be getting for that night…
While waiting for our food to be served, A. and I talked about Japan for a good bit, we even started a small conversation in Japanese. I do miss the opportunity to live and breathe Japan very much. Hoping at some point I’d have the chance to visit Tokyo again…
Here comes the first item: Japanese fried chicken! It’s definitely not the traditional fried chicken I’ve had at Izakaya or just any regular Japanese shops I’ve been to. However, the fusion taste was good, and I was impressed 🙂 It was a yummy dish. Wish they’d serve us more chicken and less pricey!!
My miso ramen. The soup was alright, on the more salty side. I liked the corn, but wasn’t very impressed with the onsen egg or the meat. The meat tasted too BBQ-y and too much fat (agreed by A. as well). It was an okay bowl of ramen if you consider it a fusion dish.
Overall we liked the experience at futobuta. The ambience was nice, it provided us the chance to revisit Tokyo for a little bit, the food were alright, but we both agreed they charge a little too much for the food they provide. Ramen is very common, also considered a street eat in Japan that you can find easily everywhere. I am just not sure if I’d be willing to pay that much for a bowl of ramen. Maybe as a guilty pleasure from time to time? Though I did not like the waitress she had. There was a line soon after we were seated. Although she was polite, she tried to take away our plates as soon as we are done giving us no time to just relax for a bit.
If I do decide to visit futobuta again in the future, I’d love to sit at the bar area, ideally have a conversation with the chef. I’d like to know about his background, why he decided to open this ramen shop, and just random things about Japan from him. I do wonder if at some point he’d get a chance to read this post himself?
Again, I think futobuta is one of those restaurants that one ought to try just to have the experience him/herself. The food isn’t bad, it’s just overpriced. That being said, it was nice to find a little bit of Japan in Charlotte, especially not too far from my apartment!
Bland St Light Rail Station
222 E Bland St
Charlotte, NC 28203
It was 16degree F (-8 C) this morning, perfect weather for a bowl of soup noodle to get the cold away?