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Yummy Ramen In and Around Boston

I'm wondering what's yummy in terms of ramen up in Boston, Cambridge, and the nearby surrounding areas. I'm very familiar with the New York ramen scene (Santouka, Ippudo, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ramen Misoya, Minca, Rai Rai Ken, Zutto, Totto, Jin, Jinya, Donburiya, Ramen Setagaya).

To give you an idea of my taste buds when it comes to ramen, while I really like Ippudo, I don't think it's the absolute best. I'm now more ramen educated and understand that there are different broths (salt, soy sauce, pork, chicken, seafood, miso, etc) and each is evaluated on its on merits, as compared to evaluating a bowl of ramen solely based on whether or not its as good as Ippudo.

From the list above, places I liked the most to are Santouka (in Edgewater, NJ), Ippudo, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Zutto (seafood ramen!), Ramen Misoya (gf loves miso ramen), Jin, Minca and Totto.

The only real ramen place I'm familiar with up in Boston is Yume Wo Katare. What's good besides that place?

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  1. Boston has gotten a lot better on the ramen front lately, and I'm a big fan of Yume Wo Katare, but overall the scene is nowhere near New York City's yet. Bring modest expectations and check out the late-night weekend bar at Clio, Inaka in Allston, Ittoku in Brighton, Sapporo in Davis Square, and Pikaichi in Allston.

    Strip-T's in Watertown occasionally does ramen on its lunch menu, and it's very good by local standards.

    Back Bay's long-running Men Tei will do if you are in that neighborhood and desperate. The UK chain Wagamama has a couple of outlets in Boston and its share of fans, though I'm not thrilled by it.

    If you can score a rare ticket to the pop-up Guchi's Midnight Ramen (if they ever do it again), that's worth the trouble. Pai Men Miyake in Portland, ME is also worth a trip for ramen and pork belly buns.

    A few I have yet to try: Snappy (Davis Square), Irashai (Chinatown), Boston Ramen Co. (a weekend night delivery option), and Ichiban (near Symphony Hall).

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Thank you for your recommendations, Slim! I'll further look into the places you mentioned.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Sapporo is in the Porter Exchange, not Davis?

        1. re: Parsnipity

          Yes, Sapporo is in Porter Exchange (and soon to be coming to Central as well, if the H-Mart ever opens!). If you're new to the area, Will, note that the Porter Exchange building is now part of Lesley College and is labelled as such, but don't be fooled - no one ever refers to it as anything but Porter Exchange. There's a small food court with mostly Japanese stalls; they tend to be more good than great, but Japanese food in Boston is pretty limited, unfortunately, and most of the stalls have at least one or two reliable dishes.

          1. re: TimTamGirl

            Thanks for the info. I'm not really new to the area, as I went to grad school at Emerson, but went back home to NJ after graduation. I still get back to Boston from time to time, but wasn't interested in the food scene when I was a student, as I am now. I never even ate instant ramen as a student, which is the staple of many students!

            Sadly, there was no ramen to be had during this visit. We're currently staying in Central Square and had this visit planned since September, but weren't able to change our travel plans, despite the storm that just hit. There was no way we were making it anywhere last night and we pondered going out to Yume Wo Kawarte tonight, but upon calling at 5:30, they said there was already a line. With the temperatures dropping rapidly and our hotel telling us of a snow enforced parking ban beginning at 5pm, we decided to put it off until our next trip. We spent some of the afternoon in Harvard Square tho, so after the fact, I of course was wondering why we didn't just depart from there, when it was earlier and less frigid, instead of walking back to Central Square and then deciding from there whether we'd go or not.

            There was a place near our hotel - Moska, which had a sign out front today, advertising "Hot Drinks and Steaming Ramen" - I kind of knew better than to go in there tho. I later checked their menu and they only offer miso and shoyu ramen.

      2. I think Slim advising to temper expectations if coming from New York City is prudent. That said, Devra First published a good primer on Boston Ramen in October

        http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/...

        I haven't been but I recently saw via twitter that Beacon Hill Bistro has been experimenting with ramen from 3:30-5pm. I think that's the only place not covered in Slim's post above.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Klunco

          Ok, thank you for the Devra link and mentioning the Beacon Hill Bistro :)

          1. re: Klunco

            I also left out backbar, which due to its odd ramen service hours (4pm-6pm) I have never gotten to. I quite like it for cocktails.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Don't kill yourself to get there. I tried the current version last weekend, and while the noodles and pork were quite good, the broth was so thin and bland that it pretty well ruined it - and that was after I had added chili oil and ginger. I actually saw other patrons ask for salt for theirs, and was close to doing the same myself. Never seen that happen before with ramen anywhere.

              I guess they change ramen types every few months, but based on this one I'd say stick to the pork buns and cocktails.

              1. re: TimTamGirl

                I'll bear the suggestions about Backbar in mind. But the weak broth reminds me of Ramen Setagaya, which used to be good when they were on 1st Ave, but once they moved to St. Marks and it was turned over to other people, the quality dropped.

          2. I would advise trying the new Seoul Soulongtang in Allston instead. It is not ramen at all, and you can find it in NYC too but it is better done than many of the ramen around here. Close by is a new izakaya, Ittoku, which is getting mixed reviews. Japanese food in Boston is about as weak as it gets here. I eat out in NYC for that!

            1 Reply
            1. re: tatsu

              One of my girlfriend's friend's brothers recommended Ittoku, but not specicially for ramen. I'll investigate more.

            2. I have tried all the places you have btw except Zutto and Jin. Give SEO late-night only ramen a shot and Kubo a try too. The late night menu at SEO is actually a different operation and they have the best J style shumai.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tatsu

                I'm familiar with SEO and some of the other late night ramen pop ups. I'll make it one day, but I'll need to have a substantial appetite around 11pm for that.

                In terms of Zutto, try their Seafood ramen. Lobster brother with ginger, scallions, manilla clams, shrimp... really good! Jin is yummy too, but up near Columbia on 125. Huge Columbia crowd.

              2. Yume Wo Katare is a cut above the rest, although the style (Jiro) is also completely different from the others. My advice is to avoid Snappy and the midnight ramen at Uni Sashimi Bar.

                I was just in NYC and tried the shiromaru at Ippudo, Tokyo ramen at Sapporo, and classic shoyu at Ivan Ramen. I was not impressed with Ippudo--the broth lacked depth, the menma was cut too thick and was too fibrous, and the chaashuu was rather dry. Sapporo's Tokyo ramen actually did remind me of the classic "chuuka soba" served at Chinese restaurants in 1960s Tokyo when I was a child. I'm not saying it's great ramen, but it made me nostalgic. Ivan's shoyu broth was really good--okay, maybe a bit too salty, but it packed an umami punch and had some subtle, complex tones. His rye noodles were interesting--kind of like a cross between ramen and soba noodles.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Edokko

                  Glad to hear that Ivan Ramen is worth the stop. That place is on my list for sure. Were you at the Slurp Shop at the Gotham West Market or is his Clinton Street shop open?

                  My first ramen experience was Rai Rai Ken in 2010. I don't remember if it was good, but obviously I liked it enough to continue eating ramen. I want to go back.

                  1. re: willscarlett

                    Slurp Shop. I don't think the Clinton St. shop is open yet.

                      1. re: willscarlett

                        Damn, I wish Boston had this kind of action going on...

                  2. re: Edokko

                    By the way, about Ippudo, I also am not the biggest fan of the chaashuu that comes standard with their ramen. I always order the pork belly, which is $4 extra, but worth it.

                  3. So, change of plans. We actually made it to Yume Wo Katare last night. In terms of the food, it was decent. What they serve is ramen from Kyoto, not the Tokyo style ramen that most are probably familiar with. I thought that the broth was yummy and flavorful and while not overly rich, definitely oily and fatty. I opted for five slices of pork and the pork was delicious, but again, the majority of the pieces were very fatty and it could be hard to get the meat off of them. As for the nodes, well Kyoto style noodles are very different. They more resembled udon or thick spaghetti, as compared to tradition Japanese ramen noodles. The noodles were very well cooked tho and the toppings (garlic, cabbage and bean sprouts) were good as well.

                    Unfortunately, what's served here is just way, way, way too much food. Kudos to those who can finish it - both my girlfriend I got a next time. The bowls of ramen served here were like a magician's hat. You think it's empty and then they pull something else out. In terms of the ramen, it seemed that the more I ate, the more noodles I found beneath the broth. It was really just too much and I had to drive back NJ after, so I didn't stuff myself and just accepted the shame of a next time :)

                    Really, if you're going to eat here, don't eat for three days prior. You won't need to eat for three days after either! Each bowl of ramen can easily feed two or three people.

                    I would give the ramen here a 3 out of 5, but as for the service - horrible!!! I'll explain...

                    I was here with my girlfriend and our 10.5 month old baby. Last night was another frigid night in Cambridge, so I waited in the line while my gf and our baby waited it out in Dunkin Donuts. 1h 15min later, I was at the front of the line, so both gf and baby came and joined me, but it was really cold for our baby to be outside. Being that we were next to be called in, I went inside and explained to the girl that we were next and had a young baby, so could we please come in so the baby didn't have to wait in the cold? Her response was no. I guess gf and baby could've stayed in Dunkin Donuts, but have a little compassion for a baby, no?

                    So ok, I went back outside, despite the fact that not many people were waiting inside at that time. The girl actually came out very shortly after and let us come in, but the most baffling part was that the amount of people that she let in far exceeded the number of people that had been inside when I asked if we could wait inside. Even if she had let us in when I had asked, there would've been less people in there as compared to the total number of the next round of people that were brought in. And at this point, it was really packed inside, to the point where people had to shuffle around so bowls of ramen could be served.

                    Moving ahead, we were seated shortly after ordering, but the seats we were given had not been cleared of the water or hand wipes from the people previously sitting there. Being that it was our first time here, we let them know we had no utensils, to which we were told it was self serve. I got utensils, but we were never brought water... until we found out that water was self serve as well. However, at this point, one of the servers actually brought us water and finally cleared the water glasses from the people who'd been sitting there before us.

                    The last item on my rant about this place was that when we were seated, they asked if we needed a high chair and we said no, as we'd brought one that attaches to the table. For those of you who've been to Yume, you know that there's not much space in between the seats - certainly not enough to attach a high chair to a table, so we had to use a regular place setting for our baby and attach her high chair there, which prompted dirty looks and whispering conversation from the staff. Do they not remember offering us a high chair? If we had accepted their high chair, where did they plan on putting it, being that we were seated against the far wall?

                    Ok, that's my rant about Yume Wo Katare. People advised modest expectations, but even modest would've been better than that experience. Never again.