What kind of chump waits in line for a restaurant? North End tourists have an excuse: they're clueless about the dull red-sauce fare that awaits them. On queue for a hot singles bar? Maybe you met Mr. or Ms. Right Now there last weekend: we've all been there. Some chain that ignored Boston until recently, like Sonic? Likely a bust. I'm professionally obligated to endure such waits, and they rarely reward my patience. Yume Wo Katare, a new thimble-sized Japanese joint that serves exactly one dish, is generating a similar frenzy: you can expect 90-minute waits for one of its 15 or so seats. Is it worth it?
Ramen is just noodle soup, after all, but it has become undeniably trendy: pop-up Guchi's Midnight Ramen frustrated hundreds who couldn't get tickets to its fleeting appearances. Posh joints like Clio have jumped on the unmet demand with late-night weekend offerings. Traditional purveyors like Sapporo draw loyal fans. Yume Wo Katare is different, doing a style rarely seen in the States called jiro ramen. Mostly favored in Japan by young men who view it as an eating contest, it features a pile of thicker-than-usual noodles, a smaller-than-usual amount of broth enriched with emulsified pork fat, a dollop of bean sprouts and bok choy, thick slices of fatty pork, typically from a rolled roast of pork belly, and an optional load of minced fresh garlic. Good ramen is a Camry: inexpensive and reliable. Jiro ramen is a Hummer: ostentatiously about gluttonous consumption.*
And while ramen is ostensibly fast food, anyone who has seen the brilliant food-themed movie Tampopo or conducted an obsessive quest for an awe-inspiring $2 taco will attest that tremendous craft and modest fare can go hand in hand. Yume Wo Katare's seemingly simple soup features a 24-hour tonkatsu (pork bone) broth flavored with soy sauce that is diligently skimmed and tended to ensure it simmers but never boils. Those noodles are lovingly handmade, the pork carefully sourced, seasoned, and prepared. Transcendence in something you eat in under 20 minutes for less than 20 bucks? Rare, but possible.
So here's the drill. Show up; stand in line. Your name will be taken; the line will creep. As you get close, the host may shuffle you forward or back a bit to accommodate the Tetris-like fitting in of odd-sized parties. Once inside, choose ramen ($12) or buta ramen ($14). They're identical, except one has two big slices of pork; the other, a daunting five. Order bottled oolong or green tea ($2), Red Bull ($3), or water ($1). Pay and hang onto the drink they hand you; you'll soon be seated at the one big table or the bar overlooking the open kitchen. The chef will ask you a question in Japanese: answer yes or no depending on whether you want the raw garlic (highly recommended). Your order will be prepared and served in a few minutes. Attack; eat until full. You cannot take home any leftovers, nor order takeout. You may opt to get a pound-sized cooked pork roast ($15) to go. That's it.
: Restaurant Reviews
, Food and Beverage, ramen, Porter Square