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Who is taking Ken Ramen's place?

  • meuri Jan 6, 2011 04:15 PM

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. Is it closed already??

        1 Reply
        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.

                                2. I have heard Luther's take from several Hounds, but from where I was sitting, on the unsophisticated ramen appreciators' end of the counter, Ken's was superior to its local competition, and very, very good. I'm very sorry to see it close.

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    I am a ramen noob too, but I have been enjoying Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square exchange lately. Would be curious to hear how anyone who knows anything thinks it stacks up.

                                    -----
                                    Sapporo Ramen
                                    1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M5, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                    1. re: yumyum

                                      Sapporo Ramen has gotten better since they changed recipes about a year or so ago (prior to that it was really horrendous). Even so, the broth in their new house ramen is still kinda funky, a little too thick (if that's even possible; usually the problem is the broth is too thin) and too bland on multiple visits. A few times, I could not get slightly off-taste of dirty dishwater out of my mind... Toppings at Sapporo Ramen are also not as tasty as at Ken Ramen where the little fried garlic chips and the marinated egg in the Kita no Kuni bowl are especially good.

                                      After Ken Ramen, I would give a distant second place nod to the Miso ramen at Mentei in the Back Bay. Their clear salt ramen, unfortunately, is plain and boring.

                                      1. re: Mike5966

                                        I agree with regard to Sapporo. I have often found their broths to be rather murky.

                                        1. re: Mike5966

                                          I think the thickness of the broth is their cooking down the collagen in the chicken bones for 12 hours (at least that's what the sign claims). I quite like it, but to each hound his own.

                                          Agree on the toppings, Ken's were tastier. And the "show" at Ken's couldn't be beat.

                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            Love the show. A symphony of ladling and chopstick clacking. My favorite part is the piece of string attached to the metal shelf that Ken uses to cut the marinated egg in half.

                                            About the collagen, no doubt that's where the thickness in Sapporo's broth comes from and I can appreciate how this could be pleasing to a lot of folks, even at really high levels of extraction. I usually like this aspect of ramen broths, but to me it was just a little too much, bordering on eating hot vaguely animal-flavored jello-water, a collagen bomb without the harmony I've experienced in other bowls. Last time I was there, I added a little salt to the broth and it perked the whole thing right up. However, in the end, I still found it "murky," as StriperGuy said. By comparison, the broth in Korean sullong-tang, benefits from as much collagen/gelatin you can extract from the beef bones (the stickier your lips are at the end of the meal the better), and somehow doesn't take on that murkiness, but that's probably because not much else goes into the stock.

                                            1. re: Mike5966

                                              mmmmm ... jello-water. mmmmm... collagen bomb. Yessss.

                                          2. re: Mike5966

                                            I haven't been back to Sapporo Ramen in a long time, so thanks for this tip. Mentei is a bit inconsistent (both across their menu and over time) but I had a very satisfying bowl of ramen there recently. Very sad to hear that Ken is leaving though.

                                            -----
                                            Sapporo Ramen
                                            1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M5, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                            Mentei
                                            66 Hereford St, Boston, MA 02115

                                          3. re: yumyum

                                            I'm not a ramen expert, but I've enjoyed Sapporo Ramen much more since the new recipes. I like the thickness of the broth, though others may find it to be too much.

                                            -----
                                            Sapporo Ramen
                                            1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M5, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                            1. re: afty698

                                              I agree. I don't know ramen well, but I find Sapporo Ramen much more flavorful than it used to be.

                                              I did love Ken's, too, although it was different. The assembly was truly beautiful to behold.

                                              -----
                                              Sapporo Ramen
                                              1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M5, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                        2. Our waitress tonight said that the new Japanese place will be open two months after Ken's closes, and will have the same types of ramen and other Japanese dishes.

                                          I suppose okonomiyaki would be too much to hope for.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            Okonomiyaki is so easy to make, you should definitely make it yourself. It will taste just as good or better than at a restaurant and MUCH cheaper!

                                            1. re: debidokun

                                              So easy that there are DIY okonomiyaki restaurants. Of course, for many, the restaurant premium is worth it in exchange for not having to acquire and prep all the ingredients.

                                              1. re: debidokun

                                                We do make our own on a regular basis, and it's superb. But there's something to be said for not having to cook for oneself.

                                              2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                Check out Bon Chon on Brighton Ave for very decent okonomiyaki.

                                              3. Cafe Mami is taking over for Ken Ramen. Apparently, they bought his recipes so they will be serving ramen. At least that's the rumor... We'll see. I've been going to Sapporo Ramen lately. It has gotten to be quite good. They also have some new Japanese-Chinese dishes like Tan Tan Men, Ebi Chili and Mapo Dofu.

                                                -----
                                                Cafe Mami
                                                1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M4, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                Sapporo Ramen
                                                1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M5, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: robertlf

                                                  OH SNAP that is the best rumor of the year

                                                  1. re: robertlf

                                                    nice. I liked Ken's Ramen, but slotting in a Cafe Mami there would be spectacular.

                                                    -----
                                                    Cafe Mami
                                                    1815 Massachusetts Ave Ste M4, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                    1. re: passing thru

                                                      is it me? shoundnt a place called cafe mami serve a more, say, hispanic menu?

                                                    2. re: robertlf

                                                      love it! Maybe they should call this second location Cafe Papi

                                                      1. re: robertlf

                                                        Interesting! I wonder what this recipe will taste like in the hands of the Cafe Mami folks. Also, if the rest of their menu will be filled in with an assortment of the regular menu items from Cafe Mami, it sounds like the chances of there being really good yakitori here are growing slimmer. I've only been to Cafe Mami once but I thought the Tonkatsu and Oyako Don were alright.

                                                        1. re: robertlf

                                                          was at Cafe Mami and they confirmed that the original owner of Cafe Mami will open an outpost at Ken's...some of Cafe Mami's dishes like the curry and some ramen... opening date unknown

                                                        2. Stopped in today to say goodbye and enjoy one last bowl of "Kita no Kuni" salt ramen. Delicious as always.

                                                          Sat at the bar and watched Kenji do his thing. Boston will definitely miss him.

                                                          Today is their last day and they should be open until 9pm as usual. You've got three hours to drop in, enjoy one last excellent bowl of ramen, and bid Kenjo sayōnara!

                                                          1. Boston Globe's article: http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: meuri

                                                              Gosh, nice interview with a nice guy...

                                                              1. re: meuri

                                                                Wow, after reading that I am less sad for me, and more thrilled for Kenji. I wish him the best, and really love the idea of a Boston-themed ramen house in Tokyo (noting that the ramen itself will *not* be Bostonized!).

                                                              2. As I was picking up a few things at Super 88/Hong Kong market yesterday (1/22), I had a peek at Ken Ramen's still warm restaurant space. Work is already fast and furious on whatever's raplacing it.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: crowdingthepan

                                                                  Signs on the door say the new restaurant will be named 'Pikaichi'. http://twitpic.com/40t2st

                                                                  1. re: Direwolf

                                                                    Sparkle Market?

                                                                    EDIT: Internet says this probably just means "top notch" in Japanese. But I like my backwards-engrish translation.

                                                                    1. re: Luther

                                                                      They've got a Facebook page with a few pics of what they'll be serving:

                                                                      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pikaich...

                                                                      Ramen, Tonkatsu etc.

                                                                      1. re: crowdingthepan

                                                                        Does The Boston Globe own this restaurant? If not, they should call the owners and ask for their font back. :-b

                                                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                          Ha, my thoughts exactly. Too funny.

                                                                2. Pikaichi is opening on Monday, March 21, according to their Facebook page. I walked by it the other day and it looked like they have four bar seats along a wooden-ish bar area in the same area where Kenji's plastic one used to be. 5 or 6 tables for 2-4 people, basically the same set-up as before but updated with a nicer outfit.

                                                                  I hope Kenji is doing well.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Mike5966

                                                                    He's come up in my thoughts a couple times in the last few days, for obvious reasons.