Obon Sushi is known for the canopied paths housed under luscious gardens at The Grove. Their reputation is more than just location. OBON’s unforgettable dining experience tells the life story of the head chef with his creations of delectable foods.

OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen
7300 N Via Paseo Del Sur #102 Scottsdale AZ

Set prominently in The Grove at McCormick—a high-end shopping and dining destination in the desirable McCormick Ranch—is OBON, a sleek restaurant focused on sushi, ramen, and libations. From hidden SPAM cans to a wall of tchotchkes that are adorned with traditional Chinese lucky cats, OBON’s style is as attractive as it is comfortable. The man behind the pass, and OBON’s concept, is thirty-three-year-old brand chef, Paulo Im.

An ethnic Korean who was born in Brazil, Im’s family immigrated to the United States in the 1980s in search of the illustrious American dream. Unfortunately, hardship followed. Im was only seven years old when his father had—and survived—a massive stroke, and since his mother was already dealing with Parkinson’s disease, Paulo was given the responsibility of cooking for his family. His mother—a trained culinary chef—talked him through cooking traditional Korean meals. By sixth grade, Im had prepared his first Thanksgiving spread, and though he was a talented cook, he never imagined it being his career path.

At seventeen, Im got a job as a busser at a local sushi restaurant. Management quickly recognized his strong work ethic and moved him behind the line. Unsurprisingly, he thrived. The confidence he built prompted Im to seek new opportunities in Tucson, where he built his resume at a popular sushi spot and then a mom and pop shop. The difference in experiences helped round out his skills and prepared him for his move back to the Valley to work with the Fukushu Concepts group on their newest venture—OBON.

OBON is an annual Japanese festival where one visits their ancestors’ graves and lights lanterns in their honor. The focus on fallen family members is important to Im considering how the losses he suffered in his life led him to be where he is today. Since the restaurant is named after a Japanese holiday and headed by a Korean chef, some may wonder what type of cuisine OBON serves. According to Chef Im, it’s American. People in America have unique experiences and bring their culture into the shared culture of the country. As a second-generation Korean, Im’s take on Korean food is different than the food his parents grew up with. While there are some traditional options at OBON, especially on the ever-changing menu board, Im avoids the typical tropes, utilizing the Korean flavor profile he grew up with to make dishes more robust.

The menu is impressive and includes several vegetarian options, including a delicious vegetarian ramen. When asked what his favorite dish is, Im answers with confidence that it’s the SPAM buns and a can of Korean beer. If diners are looking for something a little less comfort food-centric, he suggests the Yuzu Yellowtail, which is a part of OBON’s Crudo program. Unlike Sashimi, which follows craft specifications, Crudo is a dish composed of all of the sauces and accoutrements. It’s balanced on the plate and, according to Im, pairs well with Sake Ban Ryu.

Chef Im is working hard and enjoying his time in the restaurant, which opened in late June. Along with the McCormick Ranch location, OBON is in Tucson and Scottsdale Quarter, with a spot set to open in Tempe Watermark in 2020. Whether you are a Sushi addict or wanting to try some of Im’s creations for the first time, his plates will not disappoint.

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