Waaaaayyy back in January I was visiting a friend in Boston, and I made her take me to get ramen. Being a food lover herself it didn't take much convincing, she asked around and heard heard good things about Yume Wo Katare.
Our Rating out of 5
Normally here at Ramen Is Life we gloss over the dining experience and try to keep it about the part that really matters, the ramen. However, my experience at Yume Wo Katare was such a unique experience I'll be diving into the entire process...
My friend was told they can be busy and we had a lot on our schedule for the day so we ended up showing up before they opened. We were earlier than we intended to be and we were the first ones waiting outside. About 20 minutes before they opened a line started to form. We could see inside the restaurant and the team getting everything ready. Right before they opened they had a team cheer to get themselves pumped up before the days service. Then they came out and inquired about the parties in line and then started bringing people into the restaurant. Being the first ones in line we were lead to a host stand right inside the door. This first unusual thing was that there were no separate tables there were three rows of counters all pointing towards the kitchen. Once at the host stand, we were immediately asked what we wanted to order. Now they only offer two options a Regular Ramen (2 pieces of pork) or a Buta Ramen (5 pieces of pork). Naturally I ordered the Buta Ramen because I needed to know! They then asked us if we had a dream we wanted to share. Neither of us had been before so we didn't really know what that meant. We hesitantly said sure and were handed a sign that said "I have a dream" to put at our seat. We were then ushered to the seats at the front furthest from the door. The process was repeated for the guests after us who were seated in the next seats until all 3 rows were full. At that point there were a few people in the original line that then had to wait for someone to leave before they could be seated.
Once everyone was seated, the kitchen began preparing all of our meals. Being in the front row we were very close to the action and were able to talk to the chefs. It felt more like we were sitting in a friends kitchen than at a restaurant.
While talking to the chefs I found out that everything is made from scratch in house including the noodles!
The chefs asked us if we wanted garlic, which we did and then served us our ramen! The main picture is of the Buta ramen. The picture above is the regular Ramen. Jiro ramen is much less common in the states, but seems to have a very dedicated following in Japan. The broth is a combination of tonkotsu and shoyu. This particular broth was very good; it was much closer to a shoyu than a tonkotsu and it was very light, but also very rich, thanks to the abura (bits of fatback) that you can see floating in the picture. I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of abura in my broth. Partly because the thought of eating chunks of fat isn't appetizing, partly because the texture of the smaller fat bits reminded me of clumps of flower. Despite the abura, I did really enjoy the broth and it had a really interesting and unique flavor. There was a tanginess to it that I couldn't quite place. it reminded me a little bit of chicken adobo, which has soy sauce mixed with vinegar. I can't say for sure if there was any vinegar, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a tad in the broth. The hefty topping of garlic went really well with the broth and I think definitely added to it. The prevailing flavor though was shoyu! In addition to the garlic the toppings consisted of bean sprouts and cabbage, which was a first for me in a ramen, and of course pork! The bean sprouts and cabbage was a bit boring and were it not for the pork our topping rating would have been considerable lower. The pork in this bowl is not your typical chashu pork. It's more like a roasted pork shoulder, although I'm not sure what the exact cut was, but it was definitely not pork belly. Whatever cut it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the pork, which had an excellent fat to meat ratio. There was no discernible seasoning on the pork but it really didn't need anything! It was tender, juicy and fell apart as you ate it with a clean rich pork flavor.
The house made noodles were also quite good. They were much much thicker than any other ramen noodles that I've seen. They were cooked perfectly and had a very chewy texture that I really liked. They seemed to absorb the flavor of the broth really well. There was also about twice as many noodles as a typical bowl of ramen as you can see from the photo above, which was taken when I had already eaten half of my noodles!! The dish as a whole reminded me much more of something that you might find in a Chinese restaurant than it did of a bowl of ramen. Perhaps that is because this was the first time I experienced it, but I would say the noodle thickness and flavor of the broth, while entirely enjoyable, seemed much more heavy handed than I've come to expect from Japanese cuisine. There is no question though that Yume Wo Katare's ramen is soulful and hearty!
How well did you eat!?
Now that we've covered the bowl of ramen, let's get back to the dinning experience! At Yume Wo Katare, once a person is done eating they don't just get to leave. When the waiters come by to take your dish they evaluate how well you ate your ramen, and then proceed to lead the entire restaurant in a cheer of your eating grade!!! Their rating system is as follows:
- Perfect - you've eaten everything and there isn't a drop left in your bowl
- Good Job - you've eaten all the solids and only broth is left in the bowl
- Almost - you still have some solids but most of them have been eaten
- Next Time - you still have noodles left (and you have failed at the simple task of eating and you have brought dishonor to the chef and your family)
The parenthetical portion of the "next time" rating is simply what I imagined in my head if someone were to get that rating as something the waiters would be thinking in their head. No one actually got that rating while I was there so I can't say for sure, but the resounding positivity that everyone in the restaurant has is so overwhelming that I'm sure they do not actually think that - or do they?
The first person to finish was in the 2nd row behind us and that is when the waiters explained to the whole restaurant how the rating system worked and led everyone in the appropriate cheer, and cheer we did since it was such an unusual thing to have happen in a restaurant. One by one as each person finished and ratings from perfect - almost were cheered by the entire restaurant.
Now, remember the I have a dream sign we were handed at the start of this experience? A person with a sign finally finished and we learned to our excruciating horror (mild discomfort in reality) that when you said you had a dream to share that meant you actually had a dream to share with everyone. The person was then prompted to share their dream with the entire restaurant. dreams ranged from a college student acing an exam to "finding love in a hopeless place" that's right one guy decided to quote Rhianna at which point, he was ushered to a singles board they have up in the restaurant... No really, I'm serious they have a board with notes from single people that eat in the restaurant. Finally my friend and I were finished and our turn to be rated was at hand. Having gotten the Buta and all the abura in the broth I wasn't able to finish all of my broth. So, I got a good job rating and the restaurant cheered "good job" as loud as they could. I then proceeded to share my dream of traveling to every country at least once to a restaurant of complete strangers that clapped and cheered after I finished. I then gathered my belongings and freed up a seat for one of the many people lined up outside. One last thing that was interesting about their dream sharing was that if you got a good job or perfect, shared your dream and allowed them to film it and post it to their Facebook you were given a token for a free bowl of ramen on your next visit, which if you ate well and shared a dream every visit could end up being a free meal every time if someone was so inclined. Not particularly wanting my declaration being posted on Facebook and since I don't live in Boston I declined having them film my dream.
As you can see in the photo, by the time we left the line had started to go down the street. The experience was a mixed bag for me. I felt as though I somehow accidentally enrolled in a day camp for adults that happened to be accompanied by a great bowl of ramen. The ramen itself while unexpected was definitely worth trying if you've never had it before. It was hearty, delicious and extremely filling thanks to the quantity of those thick noodles and the giant chunks of pork. The next time I have a new dream I know where to go!
Yume Wo Katare Address:
1923 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140
grew up as a nomad, and currently calls New York home. When he's not slurping noodles he's editing stuff for TV. He's a quarter Japanese and has been using chopsticks since he can remember. His go to ramen order: Spicy shoyu with wavy noodles.