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Curious why ramen is so rare and yet sushi joints are on every corner?

  • k

With all the fervor for the new YumeWoKatare, I wonder why really good authentic ramen is not something more chefs are keen to make here in Boston? I've been to Ippudo and Totto in NYC and on every night of the week the lines start forming 1/2 hour before they open for dinner and don't let up all night.

Just curious whether anyone has any theories/thoughts. And quite frankly, I just like to talk about ramen! Ha. (Anyone here had ramen in Japan? My favorite place was chain called Kamakura.)

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  1. And on that note... Every time a hear about a new Japanese restaurant opening, I get a glimmer of hope that they'll serve something like sukiyaki or yakitori -- but, nope, 99.9% of the time here Japanese restaurant equals sushi with the obligatory chicken teriyaki for non-sushi eaters.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kdl

      There is Yakitori Zai, now in the South End. Has gotten generally good reviews on chow, although pricey.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        True. I'm glad someone is doing real yakitori here.

        1. re: kdl

          Ugh what a disaster that place is

      2. re: kdl

        Definitely. I really would kill for a real Izakaya.

        1. re: Spelunker

          Seriously. I just spent some time in Vancouver and loved the Izakayas. So fun.

      3. Pure speculation on my part. Perhaps its due to the profit margin? It seems easier to charge a lot of money for sushi and sake rather than a bowl of noodles. Along those lines, I long for the specialist beef noodle shops of Taiwan but I doubt that will ever make it here...

        2 Replies
        1. re: silent129

          I think it's volume business versus "specialty".
          somehow vietnamese pull it off.
          I think americans stigmatize ramen, and they don't stigmatize pho.

          1. re: Chowrin

            Or, you can't "just add hot water" when it comes to sushi?

        2. I'm more bummed by the extremely limited menus in Japanese food. I see basics repeated from place to place. And most of them seem executed as an afterthought because they expect to sell mostly sushi and sashimi.

          Here's a contrast. Over 30 years, I used to eat at a Japanese restaurant in an industrial suburb of Detroit. The restaurant was set up for the Japanese auto executives visiting and working in the area. I've never seen food like this in Boston. Yes, a few places do creative Japanese food or Japanese-inspired food but this was 30 years ago and the food was traditional. I would order whatever the specials were. I still remember one bento as a top 5 lunch ever: a lightly fried - really lightly fried - oblong of fishy paste that was like a fish jelly in a crust; a piece of fish with bones sticking out like sculpture, charred on one side and raw on the other and so on. It cost under $10. I'm not complaining about Boston. It seems that all over this country, with only a few exceptions, sushi and sashimi have overwhelmed the very deep reality of Japanese cuisine.

          3 Replies
          1. re: lergnom

            "It seems that all over this country, with only a few exceptions, sushi and sashimi have overwhelmed the very deep reality of Japanese cuisine."

            This is a very good way of stating it.

            1. re: lergnom

              And your comment on the repeated basics on menus reminds me of "Chinese restaurants" that for years seem to have the same template -- chicken fingers, pu pu platter, boneless ribs, duck sauce, etc. I guess that's what has happened with "Japanese restaurants" to some extent.

              1. re: lergnom

                totally agree. I always wonder too why the izakaya hasn't really caught on in any sort of bigger way in the states. this seems like a great exploitable niche for Japanese restaurants to me--a good range of beers and some interesting bar food with a casual atmosphere. but cookie cutter sushi joints with the same set of options seem to be mostly what opens...

              2. Im sure they will begin to pop up very soon. IMHO Ramen shops are going to be the new "thing" all over the US in the next few years. The ones in NYC are always crazy busy, as are the ones Ive seen in california. A ramen shop just opened here in austin and people are lining up over an hour before the place opens!

                3 Replies
                1. re: twyst

                  I hope you're right! It's got to be catching on.

                  1. re: kdl

                    Ramen will catch on. It'll then take the same path that most other "ethnic" foods, including sushi restaurants, do: they average place will just not be that good.

                  2. re: twyst

                    Agree. Maybe it's noted further down in the thread, but Snappy Sushi re-inventing itself as Snappy Ramen seems prescient.

                  3. Over the past 20-30 years or so, sushi has become the iconic Japanese food in America, and still has an air of sophistication and culture to it, even when it's easily found at Trader Joe's or Shaws.... whereas 'ramen' still reminds everyone of the .25-cent noodles they ate in college. Some folks might still balk at raw fish, but a lot more tend to roll their eyes at paying $10 for ramen before they've had the real stuff.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      $10...for soup....?
                      It'll never happen. ;)