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Who is taking Ken Ramen's place?

Kenji's moving back to Japan 1/16. What Japanese restaurant is taking over the space, and where am I going to go for my kita no kuni? (big sweat drop on forehead, anime-style)

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  1. This is terrible news! I love Ken's ramen.

    1. Oooh this is horrible news. I'm curious about the reasons for the ramen deficit in Boston.

        1. re: C. Hamster

          I really hope not... I am very sad about this. 1/16 is just over a week away, but if they're still open I may need to go in to have my last bowl or three of the Kita no Kuni today. I wonder if Ken is going to take all of his ladles with him, and whether he will set up shop there as well.

        2. THAT IS SO SAD! Never felt like they were getting quite enough business.

          1 Reply
          1. re: StriperGuy

            A steady stream of appreciative customers coming through today to pay their respects to Kenji... Very little english spoken.

            -----
            Ken's Noodle House
            1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

          2. Given the price (what you'd expect to pay for good ramen) and the quality (makin' me cry) I am not unhappy to see it close. Maybe we can get our first decent ramen place soon.

            23 Replies
            1. re: Luther

              I think it was the best Ramen in greater Boston.

              On some absolute scale that may not be fitting to feed to, say a goat, but in my book still pretty good.

              I'd rather have the best of mediocre, then nothing at all.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                That's fair. It is pretty sad that not only do we not have a good ramen place in Boston, we don't really have much volume of bad-to-passable places either.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Are we talking about a goat that has been boned here?

                2. re: Luther

                  Ken Ramen not the best ever? Sure. Not among the absolute best places in the east coast? Sure. Can't compare to thousands of ramen joints in Japan? Sure.

                  But calling it not even decent... a little harsh of a knock if you ask me. The ramen here was remarkably consistent, probably because he constructed every single bowl himself, and it was plenty good for my tastes. Although "best ramen in Boston" isn't much of an honor considering the other places in town, best in Boston it was to me, the one place around here where I could go and be truly satisfied when the ramen craving hit. Kinda like when you really want a French red, you don't have to bust out a $100 Chateauneuf to hit that spot... usually a solid bottle of plain old Cotes du Rhone from the local wine place down the street will do on most days.

                  Just spoke to them on the phone and they are open today. Last day of business will be 1/16. Get it while you can, folks!

                  1. re: Mike5966

                    Mike
                    Right on!! I lived in Japan for 7 years and have been fortunate enough to having been able to travel there regularly for 25 years. There is no question that Ken's ramen was about as close as you could get to authentic ramen in Boston. Nothing else even comes close in my opinion. In Japan, ramen is an almoist religious experience and ramen fans are fanatical about their favorite spots. Is it possible to get mediocre ramen in Japan? Sure it is but even in Japan I think Ken's version would have done pretty well. Ken's will be sorely missed and I hope if someone takes over the spot they might try doing an authentic Yakitori place too.

                    1. re: RoyRon

                      Thank you! Not sure what Luther's gripe with Ken's is, but always thought it was pretty darned good, and VERY sad to see it go.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Were we even eating at the same noodle place? Ramen is about balance. It's like pizza. It's a simple set of ingredients turned into what can be described as "comfort food" and the balance and precise characteristics of each ingredient must be correct. You can't take dried-out, overcooked egg and pork and add it to a weak, one-dimensional broth and say "it's ramen, isn't it?"

                        I would personally much rather cook up a pot of instant noodles at home and put in good quality ingredients (e.g. a properly cooked egg) than eat some sort of in-name-only bowl of ramen for $10.

                        1. re: Luther

                          I guess we agree to disagree. I liked it...

                          1. re: Luther

                            i have to agree with Luther's description of their ramen. Even their "special" broth was pretty weak and watery imo and the pork was dry and miniscule. But maybe by then they had lost interest and were phasing out. Looking forward to something better coming in.

                            1. re: Luther

                              I think Ken Ramen was really good for Boston ramen. You're right, ramen is like pizza, but everyone will have their preference of what the "right" balance will be. Every region in Japan has their riff on this dish, and depending on your preference and what you grew up with, Ken Ramen's version may be your comfort food but not someone else's cup of tea (or bowl of noodles, in this case). This was very much the case when we went around Japan last year.

                              As for me, I remember stumbling into Ken Ramen last winter, freezing cold and lonely for whatever reason. I was miserably shivering at the counter, and Kenji himself gave me my bowl (I'd never seen him interact with a customer before). That's comfort food for me.

                              1. re: Luther

                                In my reminiscing, I forgot to ask. Luther, what instant noodle brand do you use, and where can I get it? Also, if you have a link or reference to the broth recipe you use, that would be great, too. I'll need to have some kind of replacement ramen in the meantime.

                                1. re: meuri

                                  I usually buy Sapporo Ichiban instant noodles, they are quite popular. If you want to make tonkatsu broth from scratch, check out norecipes, there are some good posts there.

                                2. re: Luther

                                  I dunno, Luther... I was there again last night and kept on trying to convince myself how someone could see their broth as one-dimensional while preferring the packaged Sapporo Ichiban variety (even considering price differential, even with hypothetically perfectly Luther-made toppings)... But as I bit through the creamy yolk of the moist, marinated egg and the well-seasoned chashu, the crispy garlic chips (which amazingly retain some of their crispiness even after 10 minutes in the hot broth) perfumed the steam coming from the bowl and kept my face warm during full-mouthed chews of the thick, chewy noodles flecked with crunchy corn and very bright wakame. I happily slurped down every last ounce of the broth and its several dimensions, rightly called it "ramen," and agreed to strongly disagree with you.

                                  1. re: Mike5966

                                    I've been 3 times over about as many years. Maybe I just went at a bad time every time. Egg and pork were always cold and way overcooked.

                              2. re: RoyRon

                                A yakitori place would be great in this location. More importantly, a yakitori place would be great in any location in Boston because it does not exist anywhere yet! A real one with hearts and gizzards and skin and seared chicken sashimi (if that is even legal in the U.S.). Not sure I'm emotionally ready to move on quite yet, though, not until I've had my goodbye bowl of the Kita no Kuni.

                                Perhaps we could all have some kind of bittersweet chowdown here. It's rare that you get to know in advance that a place you really love is closing. I think it produces a unique opportunity to go and appreciate it in a way that would not be possible in quite the same way if you did not know that it'd be the last time. I plan on at least giving the quiet master some kinda token of my appreciation on my last visit for keeping it so real for so long here in Boston. I hope he has great success back home in Japan.

                                1. re: Mike5966

                                  The yakitori at Shabu-Shabu Toki was pretty good, but for some reason they dropped it before they closed.

                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    I agree, it was decent and was the best option for this in the area while it was around. It was also pretty cheap for their "happy hour" special. I just couldn't get over how it never came out hot enough, and the seasoning was kinda weak.

                                  2. re: Mike5966

                                    Rumors of a place featuring yakitori and other drink-friendly Japanese food going into the Joe V's space in the South End once it relocates to Washington Square, Brookline as Jimmy's. Heard it might be the Snappy Sushi people, which doesn't mean much to me.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    -----
                                    Joe V's
                                    315 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Never been to Snappy Sushi so I can't comment myself on that aspect of it, but any new yakitori-centric place would be a welcome addition, especially in the South End. I live two blocks away!

                                    2. re: Mike5966

                                      Mike
                                      Yet one more time I agree with you. If you think the ramen situation in Boston is dismal the yakitori situation is even worse. What passes as yakitori is usually one appetiser listing on a Japanese restaurant's menu. Basically it is just chicken breast covered in a teriyaki type sauce. I have never seen anyone in Boston doing true yakitori which, as you say, includes all different parts of the chicken. In Japan I used to say that at a good yakitori place you got to eat every part of the chicken except the "cluck". I'm not sure if anyone would be allowed to serve chicken sashimi here but it is done frequently in good yakitori places in Japan because of the absolute freshness and quality of the chicken that is available there. I'm convinced that an authentic yakitori place would do very well in Boston and hope that someday one will open here. One can always hope.

                                      1. re: RoyRon

                                        I thought the short-lived Sumi in Allston was pretty fair for yakitori, and did a bunch of parts; I suspect lack of a beer/sake license killed them.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          Really; who can eat chicken sashimi when they're sober?

                                      2. re: Mike5966

                                        Having worked and been fed well in Japan I will miss Ken's for it's transportational properties. The process and attention had all that shibumi that is hard to find so far from Japan. Was it the ichibanist? Maybe no but David Chang's thing, so popular in NYC is a riff on ramen imho.

                                        Basho does the yakitori thing ok but very dear price wise. Can't possible get enough of that 鶏皮chicken skin. Teppanyaki would be awesome! Meanwhile I will miss the swirl and intensity of Ken's Ramen...it's propriety and vibe.