Living in Bowling Green, a small college town in Ohio, it is a struggle getting high quality Asian food. Even though there are a few Chinese food options around such as Panda Express, they are still far from tasting authentic. Knowing that there is a small Japanese restaurant in a strip mall off E. Wooster Street, I decided to give it a try during lunch hours.
Uraku Japanese Restaurant, which is owned by a Korean, provides a variety of Asian cuisines including Korean, Thai and of course, Japanese.
Walking into the entrance is a poorly-decorated antechamber that gives me a feeling that the business has been closed for some time. It then leads us to another door and finally the actual restaurant.
It is not very big in size but every piece of furniture and decoration item are pretty much wooden or paper. There are also plenty of Japanese style artwork and curtains on the wall and the ceiling. It is funny that they hang lanterns with English words like “Sushi” and “Sake” on them while the restaurant ironically does not serve any alcohol. So do not expect to get any sake, shochu or any other traditional Asian alcohol beverages.
The service is great. The waitress is very helpful and knowledgable when we have trouble reading the menu especially those names that consist of English spelling of Japanese words. She does a great job in explaining every question about the dishes. So if you usually find ordering in an Asian restaurant difficult, do not worry. You will not panic here.
We ordered a tempura udon noodle soup($13.95). The texture of the udon is great, not too soft or hard but just right. Unlike the kind of udon that you can get from Walmart in $10, the cream colored noodle tastes like Inaniwa udon, one of the most well-known traditional hand-stretched Japanese udon noodles. It is chewier but slightly thinner than regular udon.
The tempura comprises of deep fried shrimps, mushrooms and cucumbers. What I dislike about it is that the tempura is directly put into the hot noodle soup. By the time it is carried to our table, they were no longer crispy as they were supposed to be. Also, the dish is quite small in size. The staff explains that the food featured on the lunch set menu are relatively smaller but cheaper than those served during dinner hours.
We also order a chicken hotstone bibimbob($12.95), which is basically a hotstone bowl of warm rice topped with egg, bean sprout, daikon, carrots and so on. I do not recommend choosing chicken because it is nothing more than boiled chicken breast without any seasoning or processing, which makes me feel that it is being overpriced. As a raw fish lover, fresh tuna or salmon bibimbob could have been better choices. But overall it is quite nice because the rice goes well with the ingredients and sauces.
What is fun about having hotstone bibimbobs is that you get to choose your own sauce combination. You can do your own mix and match like Korean spicy sauce together with teriyaki sauce, or you can get double Korean spicy sauce. Some options are quite weird for me though. I would not recommend coconut sauce because this is not the kind of creamy and sweet taste of coconut milk that I was expecting. It is instead something chili, sweet and sour in Thai style. The bizarre thing is that they also offer a sauce called sweet chili sauce, which tastes just the same as the coconut sauce to me. A nice combo would be Korean spicy with the spicy mayo sauce. The latter is a homemade creamy chili hot sauce.
Interestingly, you probably can only have this experience in the U.S.A. because most traditional and authentic Korean food places would not allow that. Instead, sauces are usually carefully designed and prepared by chefs.
All in all, the food is a little overpriced and Americanized. Though, the quality in general is still above average. If I was to have a top 3 of the best Asian restaurants I have tried in Bowling Green, Uraku Japanese Restaurant would still come fairly close to the top for me. A diner worth the price if it is Asian cuisine you are longing for.
Uraku Japanese Restaurant
Address: 1616 E Wooster St ,Ste 6, Bowling Green, OH 43402
Telephone: (419) 352-7070
Monday to Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Friday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturday: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm