Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pikaichi Ramen

Pikaichi Ramen
There seems to be a ramen craze gripping Boston via the wares of Guchi's Midnight Ramen. Unfortunately for me, and the rest of the working public, it's damn hard to catch this pop up restaurant during the wee hours of the morning when it opens up. Furthmore, I've heard from the masses of the interwebs that the tickets to eat at the little restaurant are really hard to come by. So until it does become more available, you do have another option.
Ken's Ramen was a tiny little shop located in the Super 88 out in Allston, and previously where I always had my ramen fix. Being half Japanese, and having lived in the outskirts of Tokyo for a few months, I am both a ramen fiend and a ramen snob. Ken's Ramen really was the closest thing I could get to the real thing in between my trips to Japan which seem to come every six years or so. 
And then Ken's Ramen was no more. Ken went back to Japan, where I'm told he had intended to open up his own ramen shop over there. What were we to do? The few transplants and noodle afficionados in Boston were torn to pieces.
Thankfully, a new ramen shop opened up in the same location by the name of Pikaichi. While I can't say that Pikaichi is as good as Ken's, it puts on a noble effort, and it's the closest thing I can get to real ramen in this area. Again, I have not eaten at Guchi Midnight Ramen, and have incredibly high hopes once I can, but for now, Pikaichi is excellent.
When you head over to Super 88, go through the main grocery store entrance at the side of the parking lot, forgoing the food court entrance. You will see the entrance to Pikaichi on the left. Go through the doors, expect the enthusiastic welcome of "Irashyaii!" and let the server point you to a table or the counter.
What to order? Well, they're not the greatest, but if you want a bit of an experience, you should take a taste of the takoyaki. Takoyaki are little pancake balls with bits of octopus on the inside, and a touch of okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonaise squeezed on the size. The things are roaring hot, so be careful. But they are a delicious bar snack, and have been made famous through various shops in Osaka. The fluffy, cakey batter gives way to chewy chunks of savory octopus, all complemented by the tangy brown sauce, and the extra fattiness of a little smear of sweet Kewpie mayonaise.
Miso ramen
Moving onto the big show, you'll want to order the miso ramen. The ultimate ramen is a harmony of a number of important elements. First, the noodles must have a certain amount of chew. They must be springy, kind of eggy, and they must be a delight to chew through and swallow. I can't really describe it otherwise. The soup must be so savory that it's almost unbearable. It should be rich in flavor via hours of simmering a combination of bones, and then at the last second combining with the right amount of cooked down stock and miso paste. Finally, the toppings must fit with the flavor of the soup. The pork should be tender and just fatty enough. The bean sprouts or other green should still have some crunch. I love the bamboo shoots that have this slightly tangy cured flavor, and add another element of chew to the soup. And the egg should be marinated, a ni-tamago, that adds another element of creaminess through the lightly set yoke and a touch more saltiness that has penetrated the entire egg through the soy/mirin marinade. There you have it, toppings, soup, and noodles... a trifecta of man food in Japan. All of these elements come very very close to the real thing that I've had and often long for in Japan, when dining at Pikaichi in Allston. I think they've done a bang up job at servering patrons who all seem to be either Japanese or friends of Japanese or people similar to myself that have spent time abroad slurping down these awesome noodles. 
Ramen noodles in all their glory
So go to Pikaichi, whether a newcomer to the world of ramen, or a dedicated fan. If you have been to Wagamama, I'll tell you right now that I hate Wagamama. It sucks. Despite a decent broth, sucking down the noodles themselves is akin to slurping snot. They're too soft and lack body. Ugh. Do yourself a favor and try something better. Head straight down Comm Ave and be glad that you did.

Pikaichi Ramen
1 Brighton Ave
(at Malvern St) 
Boston, MA 02134

By the way... I can wait no longer for Guchi. I'm going back to Japan tomorrow and will report back on all the delicious food over yonder. Truth be told, I'm going back to see my college roommate, an exchange student from Kyoto, get hitched. Pretty girl, she. This is going to be one hell of a trip. So look forward to short, but sweet posts including but not limited to: Kyoto cuisine, Kurokawa Onsen, Osaka Dotonburi, and Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo. 

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