This is new and exciting. This is a culinary coup. Charlotte is experiencing a restaurant revolution that shows no signs of letting up. Case in point is one of the newest additions, with flavor combinations that explode on your palate with sheer delight. The location makes it all the more intriguing; nestled into the Post South End apartment complex is Futo Buta.
The eatery is situated along the LYNX Light Rail Line at the Bland Street Station, in a back corner of the building. A small boutique of an establishment with just a touch of décor and North Carolina oak walls, the true aesthetics is on your plate or in your bowl. You’ll find several tables on the large patio out front and a petite cherry wood bar and community table greet you upon entering.
Futo Buta, which is loosely translated as “fat pig,” is a ramen house. Ramen is Japanese noodle soup. Michael Shortino, chef and owner, has taken ramen to new and untraditional heights. Izakaya, steamed buns, gyoza, sushi and amami are “souped” up as well, combining old-world Japanese delicacies with innovative twists.
If some of this culinary terminology is new to you, you’re not alone. Consider your curiosity as one of the most delectable learning experiences you’ll savor. I’ve included a few definitions to help enlighten.
Izakaya, or Japanese small plates, begin the journey. The White Kimchi Mason Jar is created with apple, pear and cilantro. The Kurobuta Pork and Golden Scallop Gyoza are dumplings made with ginger, sesame oil, Thai chili and scallion, and are divine. Rice Crispy Squares (no, not the cereal) are made with spicy tuna, jalapeno and wasabi ponzu. Hamachi Crudo (think yellowtail sushi) is accented with avocado, grapefruit, chili yuzu and garlic chips. Each one is distinctively delicious, like the House Smoked Salmon Belly Nigiri with maple syrup, yuzu tobiko and shiso mayo.
Also delicious is the Charred White Asparagus with spicy yuzu, shiso butter, fried quail egg and garlic chips. For the love of fried chicken, try the Tori Karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, which contains soy, ginger and spicy Buta mayonnaise.
Steamed Buns are culinary works of art. You also need to taste the Lowcountry Pork Belly bun with sesame slaw and pickled mustard seed. Duck Confit buns include crispy ginger, scallion and Carolina peach preserve. The Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini bun is accompanied by pickled ramps (wild leek), black garlic oil and shiso.
Ramen is fresh, handcrafted noodles and soups made in house daily at Futo Buta. The Tonkotsu is superb, with its intense pork broth (tonkotsu), black garlic, scallion, chashu (braised pork), smoked pork shoulder and sous vide egg.
Miso ramen is pork and chicken broth, sweet corn, leeks, green onion and chashu. Shoyu offers chicken broth, chashu, bamboo, sous vide egg, garlic and scallion. Shio ramen has chicken broth, katsuobushi salts, bok choy, bean sprout, house-smoked salmon and Carolina prawns. Niwa is created with vegan broth, sweet corn, leek, bok choy, seaweed and sesame oil. The flavors can be in Cheese ramen are outstanding as well – chicken broth, whipped egg, pecorino, scallion, cilantro and lemon.
Tsukemen, available in a limited number of orders per day, is a rich double-chicken broth, house blend katsuobushi powder, chilled noodles, poached chicken breast and scallions.
For dessert, you’ll need to taste the Amami, which is a daily selection of house-made, soft-serve ice cream using the freshest seasonal ingredients. Each flavor, including the strawberry, is outstanding; other flavors include Yuzu and Baby Ginger, double chocolate with salted pistachio, sweet potato and caramel. For an alternative, check out the Mango Cake, which comes with roasted pineapple and feral berry sorbet.
Delightfully intricate combinations of flavors and textures abound at Futo Buta. Michael Shortino has created a home run with a unique and scrumptious menu in a pleasing atmosphere with reasonable prices, ranging from $5 to $12. To put it simply, I look forward to more than my share of steamed buns and Japanese fried chicken.