In light of the upcoming arrival of NYC’s famed Totto Ramen in Allston, I choose six ramen bowls that prove to be the hottest, the most outrageous and the most original in Boston. Some stay true to the rigid ramen lore, while some treat the dish like a blank canvas prone to imaginative flairs. It seems all is fair in love, war and, ahem, ramen.
House ramen at East by Northeast ($12)
House-cut alkaline noodles, pickled kohlrabi, soft-boiled egg, tonkotsu-and-fumet broth, and pork shoulder confit top the bill in this star-studded ramen. The dollop of ankimo (monkfish liver; aka “foie gras of the sea”) butter turns the bowl into orange-hued, creamy paradise. Enough said.
Spicy miso ramen at Pikaichi ($8.99)
Shrimp hot oil and miso paste are combined to create the harmonious broth of umami and heat. The round noodles absorb the hot broth in every mouthful. Add a cube of butter ($0.50), wakame seaweed ($0.50), and seasoned boiled egg ($1.50) for a fuller spiced-up experience.
Tonkotsu ramen at Backbar ($14)
This hole-in-the-wall cocktail bar may be inventive with its booze, but when it comes to ramen, it has never been more traditional. It is straight-up pork bone-broth ramen with pork belly and poached egg that wins many hearts. Not enough pork? Opt for extra bacon ($3).
Buta ramen at Yume Wo Katare ($14)
The one-hour wait here is righteous; hand-pulled noodles in rich soup spiked with pork fat and a whole lot of chopped garlic. Five thick slices of pork belly chashu basically melt in your mouth, while cabbage and bean sprouts provide crunch. Few can finish the ginormous portion, but all leave the restaurant happy.
Smoked pork ramen at Sweet Cheeks Q ($15)
The lovechild of Japanese ramen and Texas-style barbecue comes in a big bowl of noodles and smoky pork belly doused in creamy tonkotsu broth. The Monday ramen menu here rotates frequently, but always has a Southern smokehouse touch. Don’t miss the soy-pickled egg with luscious runny yolk and creamy white.
House ramen at Sycamore ($15)
Who knew you could get ramen at a neighborhood bistro in Newton? Linguini-like house-made noodles and tender Berkshire chashu are textbook ramen, but seaweed butter and chicory kimchi transform this bowl into something phenomenal.
East by Northeast
Location: 1128 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139
Ramen hours: Wed 5 pm – 10 pm
Phone number: (617) 876-0286
Location: 1 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134
Ramen hours: Mon-Sun 11.30 am – 4 pm, 5 pm – 9 pm
Phone number: (617) 789-4818
Location: 7 Sanborn Court, Somerville, MA 02143
Ramen hours: Mon-Tue 4 pm – 12 am, Wed-Sun 4 pm – 6 pm
Phone number: (617) 718-0249
Yume Wo Katare
Location: 1923 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140
Ramen hours: Tue-Sat 5 pm – 11 pm
Phone number: (617) 714-4008
Sweet Cheeks Q
Location: 1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Ramen hours: Mon 9 pm – 10 pm
Phone number: (617) 266-1300
Location: 755 Beacon St, Newton, MA 02459
Ramen hours: Mon 9 pm – 11.30 pm
Phone number: (617) 244-4445