Frequent visitors to the Chesterfield Village shopping center in Springfield, Missouri, might have been disappointed to see the recently opened Half Crocked Chef’s Cafe & Marketplace close (the owner plans to reopen in a new location this fall, though, so stay tuned for more details), but they didn’t have to wait long before a new restaurant moved in. Earlier this month, OMO Japanese Soul Food hosted its grand opening and unveiled a menu steeped in traditional Japanese cuisine.

The woman running the show is Tingting Liu, co-owner of  Springfield newcomer Hula Hawaiian Kitchen. And just as Liu’s southside island-themed eatery borrows from classic Hawaiian dishes, her latest venture is all about authentic Japanese dishes, with a special focus on ramen. Hailing from China, Liu was first introduced to Japanese ramen in high school when her family vacationed in Japan. “My memories from those trips are of the food and flavors,” she says.

After months of research and trips across the country to sample some of the best ramen shops she could find, Liu hopes to have brought those childhood memories to life here in the Midwest. She aims to introduce Springfield to some of her favorite Japanese dishes with the help of an experienced kitchen staff who she says all have experience working in Japanese restaurants around town. The focus of OMO’s menu is on ramen, rice bowls and OMO boxes, which resemble the popular Bento box. If it’s ramen you're craving, customers are invited to build their own bowls by selecting one of four broth bases, a ramen and toppings of their choice including chashu pork (marinated braised pork belly cut into thin strips).

Other authentic Japanese dishes Liu added to the menu are okomoniyaki – a savory Japanese pancake filled with cabbage and meat – and takoyaki – bite-sized dough balls filled with calamari. “They’re deep-fried,” Liu explains. “It’s crispy on the outside, but soft and hot inside.” Liu hopes dishes like these will set OMO apart from other Japanese restaurants in Springfield.

And like American soul food, Liu says the key to Japanese soul food is the care that goes into each dish. Whether it’s the broth that boils for hours or the perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs carefully steeped in a housemade soy broth, “you can taste the soul of each dish.”

OMO Japanese Soul Food, 2101 West Chesterfield St., Springfield, Missouri, 417.755.7214, facebook.com/OMO-Japanese-Soul-Food

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