Cambridge is not an exciting culinary city. With an abundance of burger joints and cafes catering for students, a few high end bistros and the occasional hipster eatery (I’m looking at you Live Alive) there is much left to be desired in the mid-range restaurant scene. It’s astonishing how difficult it is to find a warm exciting meal in Cambridge without paying a premium fine.
It’s not a surprise then that a new Ramen restaurant gets so much attention. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, opened only two weeks ago near Harvard Square, was completely packed on a frozen weekday evening. The lack of a reservation system and a waiting list of forty five to sixty minutes does not seem to deter the potential diners away.
The first thing you will notice after surviving the long wait is the fine attention to details. The space is well lit, the music is at exactly the right volume and the pleasant acoustics are idle for conversation. These would all be taken for granted if not for the current trend of flashy and loud restaurants which also try to act as a cafe, a pickup bar or a sports bar.
The menu is currently limited for a soft opening period. It includes only 6 ramen dishes all based on the signature “Tonkutsu” broth. Personally, choice makes me nervous so a limited menu is right up my alley and I hope they won’t extend it too much in the future. I ordered the signature dish “Tonkotsu Shio Ramen” with a topping of corn and butter. My partner ordered the “Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen”, which is the same dish with added soy sauce, and a soft boiled egg topping. Happiness was less than 10 minutes away.
It’s all about the broth. Oh, the broth. Thickness that can only be obtained through endless hours of braising pork bones. Flavorful yet subtle. Layers of taste, all living in harmony, reveal themselves one after the other without creating interference or over complexity. A Ramen dish is carried on the shoulder of it’s broth. And this one delivers. The juicy pork belly, fresh vegetables, and the cooked to perfection noodles were only there to compliment the holy broth in which they roam.
To put the final seal of approval on the attention to details one must only examine the soft boiled egg: Fully cooked egg white with thick running yolk. So simple yet so hard to find in this level precision.
The Hokkaido Ramen Santouka provides a unique experience in the Cambridge culinary landscape. One can only hope this level of simplicity and precision will persist.
Tonkotsu Shio Ramen : 11.25$
Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen: 11.25$
Aji Tama (soft boiled egg) : 2$
Corn & Butter: 2.80$
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, 1 Bow St Cambridge, Massachusetts