Otakumen and Pat and Waldo's restaurants share same passionate owner, differ disappointingly in quality

An amazing culinary experience is the product of a cook's passion as much as his execution. Chef Marco DiSanto's Otakumen and Pat and Waldo's restaurants are brimming with passion, but inconsistent in execution.

Otakumen serves mostly ramen, a dish that DiSanto learned to prepare under the skilled, watchful eye of Los Angeles-based celebrity chef Yuji Mastumoto. DiSanto said he never went to culinary school, but learned by working with experienced chefs like Matsumoto. 

DiSanto also said his Chinese and Italian roots instilled a dedication in him from an early age. He's been cooking since he was 8 years old. While his Italian roots profoundly influence the Pat and Waldo's menu, his Japanese cooking is purely the result of a commitment to the culture's culinary craft.

"I try to be very pure to the cuisine. But growing up with it has given me a palate that works really well with Asian cuisine, tasting ginger and garlic and all that," DiSanto explained.

DiSanto said one of his favorite dishes to make is Shio Tonkotsu ramen, which is built off of pork broth. He enjoys the care the dish requires as far as "being a watchman of the broth."

I've had a very limited amount of ramen in my life, and the best I've had to date was at a hole-in-the-wall place in Costa Mesa, California. I can't confidently comment on the authenticity of Otakumen's ramen, but the flavors unfortunately fell very short of my expectations. 

The noodles were well-cooked, but the broth didn't live up to the menu's promise of being "rich" and "seasoned." The flavor of the pork overpowered the flavors of the other toppings and seasonings, but even the pork flavor was disappointingly dry and bland. 

A quick glance at Otakumen's Yelp reviews shows that I'm not the only one who feels this way. But the restaurant is only a month and a half old, and I want to believe DiSanto's inspiring passion for the craft of Japanese cooking will ultimately save the ramen. 

In spite of the troubling reviews, DiSanto remains committed to bringing authenticity to his product, and this commitment shines through much more brightly at Pat and Waldo's. 

I ordered the Alfredo after DiSanto told me it was his favorite thing off the menu to eat. 

"For the Alfredo, we do a long slow simmer to reduce the cream so the sugars in the cream naturally caramelize to bring the natural sweetness out of the cream," DiSanto said. 

This process made the noodles flavorful and enjoyable. Most Alfredo dishes I've had in the past has been slathered in rich, creamy sauce, but DiSanto's method made the flavor much more prominent and the dish much less messy. 

DiSanto said the Italian half of his upbringing had a powerful impact on the development of Pat and Waldo's. In fact, the restaurant is DiSanto's way of paying homage to his grandfather Pat and great-great uncle Waldo. 

"They were both very big culinary influences. Waldo was the first person to show me how to properly peel a tomato by hand with a perry knife when I was 5. Pat taught me how to make pizza, how to hand make ravioli," he said.

Like Otakumen, most of the ingredients on the Pat and Waldo's menu are prepared by hand and made in-house. DiSanto said part of the traditional technique consists of them grinding their own meat, hand-mixing meatballs and stuffing their own sausages. 

Though Pat and Waldo's and Otakumen are notably different in quality and content, customers still seem to be thrown off by its shared space. As I was walking in, I overheard two businesspeople muttering that they found the duality to be odd.

But DiSanto is not trying to fuse the two together in any way besides passion and architecture, but he said he still thinks people's universal love for noodles makes the shared space desirable. 

In spite of people's varying opinions of the space, the red decor does a decent job at modernizing the older building without making it boring. 

While DiSanto's passion for the art of cooking is admirable, the execution of Otakumen's ramen doesn't reflect his stated devotion to bold flavor. Pat and Waldo's is more successful, and a worthwhile place to pop in for quality Italian food at a reasonable price. 

Related Links:

Top five ways to spice up your ramen noodles

Republic Ramen

Reach the reporter at celina.jimenez@asu.edu or follow @lina_lauren on Twitter. 

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