One of the dining spots reviewed within the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site is Ittyo, a Japanese noodle house within the The Sears Building in Cambridge's Porter Square neighborhood (and just in case you were wondering, the building is also known as University Hall and Porter Exchange, with the food area being known as both The Shops at Porter and Japantown). And while Ittyo is indeed a terrific place, there is a slightly different type of noodle house a couple of spots down from Ittyo that is quite a bit more popular, though still a bit of a hidden gem (as most, if not all of the Asian dining spots in the building are). So why is Sapporo Ramen one of the few places in The Sears Building that often has lines? well, it could have something to do with the fact that ramen noodles are particularly hot these days, but it could also be the fact that this tiny eatery, which used to get mixed reviews not too long ago, has really upped the quality of their dishes, making it a great option for delicious--and cheap--meals.
Much like Ittyo and most of the other restaurants in the little "restaurant row" within The Sears Building, Sapporo Ramen has zero atmosphere, with a handful of tables squeezed into their shoebox-sized dining area. Indeed, this probably is not a place to go to on a romantic date or for an important business lunch, or if you're hard of hearing, for that matter, since diners at neighboring tables are literally within inches of each other, especially in the middle area of the space. The ordering system depends in part on how busy the place is; if there is a line, one of the workers may ask folks in line what they would like to order, while during quiet times, customers can order either at the counter area behind the tables or with one of the servers once they are seated.
As you might expect, Sapporo Ramen focuses mainly on ramen noodles, which are basically wheat noodles that, in the case of this restaurant, are served in a soup with broth, meat, vegetables, soy sauce, miso, etc. The meat-based broth is cooked at very high heat with pork bones in it for about 10 hours, extracting the collagen from the bones, which gives the broth a very rich and creamy flavor. (A vegetable broth is also offered in their vegetarian ramen soup.) It is hard to choose from the array of ramen soups at Sapporo Ramen, but one of the most popular--and possibly the best--is the spicy miso ramen, which features spicy ground pork in a sweet-tasting miso ramen broth that also has a bit of heat. Another impressive option is the hot and sour ramen, which is a bit like a large version of the hot and sour soup you might get at a Chinese restaurant, but with ramen noodles added and slightly less heat than some of its Chinese counterparts. A rather interesting choice is the "tantan men," which has the same spicy ground pork that comes with the spicy miso soup, but instead of the sweet miso broth, this one has a nutty and slightly sour taste that comes from sesame. For heat lovers, the kim chi ramen is a good option, while lovers of Indian or Thai food might wish to opt for the curry ramen. Other choices include a basic house ramen, a stir-fried vegetables option, a soy sauce ramen soup, and cold noodles in peanut sauce. Appetizers and sides can also be ordered at Sapporo Ramen, with the slightly charred pork gyoza being a wonderful dish, and the shumai, deep-fried chicken, and pork cutlets (katsu) being available, along with a few rice dishes (curry rice, crab omelet over rice, house rice).
Sapporo Ramen may not quite match up to the best ramen houses in New York City, but it really is an excellent place to go to if you need a good ramen fix. The atmosphere isn't much to talk about, and service can range from friendly to harried, but none of this really matters much to those who constantly crave the delicious noodles and outstanding broth that this place offers. [Ed note: Another location of Sapporo Ramen can also be found within the H Mart in Central Square.]
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