While food courts are often thought of as places within malls that offer basic (at best) food for people who are more focused on shopping than eating, the Boston area has a number of Asian food courts that feature some truly great restaurants. Two such spots include the spacious food court in the Hong Kong Supermarket in Allston which is particularly popular with college students nearby, and the tiny and jam-packed food court in the old Sears building in Cambridge's Porter Square, which has some of the best Japanese eateries in the area. There are other food courts as well, including a mostly unknown one inside the 99 Asian Supermarket in Malden, and though it looks a bit grim--and has few options for dining--it includes a Japanese restaurant called Kakkoii that offers great takes on two very popular types of food.
Kakkoii Sushi and Ramen is located on a stretch of Route 99 just north of the Everett line that consists mainly of auto repair shops, fast-food joints, and some industrial buildings. The market is a standalone structure (formerly a Stop and Shop) in a shopping center behind one of the auto shops and is relatively easy to miss unless you know it is there, and once you go inside the market, Kakkoii itself is easy to miss as well, as it sits in the far right end of the grocery store, partitioned off from the market and sharing its space with a BBQ spot and a Chinese eatery. The food court isn't exactly a place to go on a romantic date, as the old-looking ceiling (complete with water stains), dim fluorescent lights, hard floor, and lack of windows give it almost a discount department store feel to it, though there are plenty of tables to sit at and because it is not typically a crowded spot, diners won't feel hemmed in like they might at the more popular food courts mentioned above.
Based on its name, you would probably assume that Kakkoii Sushi and Ramen focuses on, well, sushi and ramen, and you would certainly be correct, though it does offer other items such as seaweed salad, shrimp shumai, pork gyoza, popcorn chicken, edamame, and rice bowls. But it's really all about the sushi and ramen here, with both being well worth getting, and in the case of the former, the menu has quite a variety of freshly-made sushi items for such a small place. A few sushi options include California maki (California roll) with crab stick, avocado, cucumber, and a sprinkling of briny-tasting tobiko (flying fish roe); octopus sushi or sashimi; Alaska maki with salmon, cucumber, and avocado; Philadelphia maki with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber; negihamchi maki with yellowtail and scallions; shrimp tempura maki with cucumber and a sprinkling of tobiko; and surf clam sushi or sashimi. (Combo plates are also avaiable for sushi, sashimi, and maki.) On the ramen side, there are three options at Kakkoii--the heaven ramen with a mild meat broth, a slightly fatty roast pork, a marinated soft-boiled egg, corn, onion, bok choy, and bamboo shoots; the hell ramen, which is basically the heaven ramen but with the addition of hot pepper that sneaks up on you (and gets hotter as it soaks in the broth); and a seafood udon option that has a light fish broth, fish cake, shrimp tempura, scallops, and veggies. Prices are generally reasonable for all items, with sushi combos being in the mid-teens and ramen options being around $10.
It is easy to ignore Kakkoii Sushi and Ramen because it almost looks like an afterthought within the 99 Asian Supermarket, but that would be a mistake because this eatery has some seriously good food and is definitely worth considering if you don't want your Japanese food to be overly "Americanized." And while not exactly a place to go to for atmosphere, there is something rather appealing about dining on authentic Asian fare followed by a leisurely walk up and down the aisles of a supermarket that features items that you probably won't see in your neighborhood grocery store.
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