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Yume Wo Katare will make your wildest dreams come true

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Yume Wo Katare (夢を語れる)

When was the last time you’ve had a bowl of truly authentic ramen? Before coming to Yume Wo Katare, I came to realize that for me the answer was never. Let me preface this by saying that there will always been a special place in my heart for instant ramen, but it shouldn’t be called by the same name—there should be one word to describe every college student’s favorite late-night snack, and another for the magic that owner Tsuyoshi-san has brought to Porter Square. The place represents his dream to open a ramen joint in the U.S., which he funded by selling his five previous restaurants back in Japan.

I first came across the place on their opening night, which I noticed because of the massive line extending down the block. Being the Japanese food freak that I am, I made plans to eat there within the week. When I returned the following Thursday with some friends, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find a similarly large line ten minutes before opening. Even though we were early, Yume Wo Katare only seats 16 customers, and they are only open from 6-10 PM daily. It took us an hour to get in, but I wouldn’t have left that line had it taken three hours. By the time we were in, my slight hunger had turned to an intense desire to ravenously consume anything and everything. This was due partially to standing in line for an hour, and partially from the irresistible aroma that permeated the inside and outside of the establishment.

The first thing I noticed when I got inside was just how authentic everything was. I was greeted with, “Irasshaimase,” the ubiquitous Japanese greeting when entering a business. Soon after, I was shown a simple menu featuring just two items: ramen ($12), and buta ramen ($14), which is the same thing but with extra pork on top. In a rare moment of sensibility (I’ll explain later), I ordered the regular ramen with a bottle of iced green tea, one of the four beverages on the menu. Since I’m currently taking Japanese 3, I also took the opportunity to order in Japanese, which went surprisingly well. The total came to $14 even, since apparently tax is included in the price.

A few short minutes after we were seated, the chef yells to me from behind the counter, “Ninniku iremasuka?” which is Japanese for, “would you like garlic?” Since I wasn’t on a date, I replied with a “hai!” In case you’re wondering, you are pre-warned about being asked this question, with a few signs outside on the window and some more placed strategically around perimeter of the dining room. Other signs also tell you that they only accept cash, and that extra vegetables and broth are free upon request. Also, they don’t allow takeout (including leftovers), although you can order some of their slow-cooked pork to go for $15.

As soon as I answered the question, the waitress brought out a massive, steaming bowl of the freshest ramen noodles ever to have been graced by my presence. On top was a gigantic pile of fresh bean sprouts and napa cabbage, and two glistening slices of the fattiest, juiciest, most tender pork, ever. As a Jew I’m ashamed to say this, but that pork was one of the best things I have ever eaten; Anthony Bourdain, I finally understand your obsession. Furthermore, the broth is much richer than in other ramen I’ve had: the deep, salty umami flavor makes every bite more addictive than the last. The saltiness also means it was too much for me to finish all the broth, but according to my Japanese friends it is not expected.

One of the major things that sets Yume Wo Katare apart from virtually every other ramen place east of the Mississippi (except maybe NYC), are the noodles themselves. I was amazed at how different these noodles were from anything I’d encountered before. This is because, unlike anywhere else in Boston, they make their noodles from scratch, fresh every day. Other places in the area, including Sapporo Ramen down the street, get their noodles from the West Coast. This may not seem like a big deal, but in addition to being fresher, the noodles actually look, feel, and taste different. Unless you’ve been to Japan, you will be surprised at how thick and chewy they really are.

After slurping down the gigantic portion of noodles, pork, and vegetables in a matter of minutes, I definitely felt full and satisfied, and ready to give some of the other customers waiting in line a turn. As tempting as ordering the buta ramen was, I was happy I got the standard portion of pork, because five pieces would have been too much of a good thing.

On my way out, I noticed the walls were covered with frames full of customer’s wishes (mostly in Japanese). I later realized that the name, “Yume Wo Katare,” means “Tell your dream.” For various prices depending on the duration, you can write your dream in a picture frame on the wall, and it if it comes true before that time, you will win a prize, such as a free bowl of ramen or a t-shirt. Prices range from $10 for three months, to $10,000 for ten years. However, for me, just being there and getting to eat a bowl of their life-changing ramen was a dream come true. Needless to say, the fair prices and close proximity to Tufts means I will be returning often, even if it does mean waiting in line.

Ambiance: A-

Service: B

Food (taste): A

Food (presentation): B

Price: $14/person

Overall: A

1923 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Neighborhoods: Cambridge, Porter Square

http://www.yelp.com/biz/yume-wo-katare-cambridge

-Gabriel Spieler

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