Monday, October 15, 2012

Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare

This page is a work in progress and will be updated when I have new information.
Last updated: 8/16/14

8/16/14: Now that Yume Wo Katare has been open for almost two years (!) and they're on social media I've decided to stop updating this page. It seems they keep making changes to make dining there more interactive and I'm not eating there often enough to keep up with the changes. For a while now they've been critiquing diners' eating performance. If you finish everything in your bowl the staff will shout out, "Perfect!" and other diners are asked to applaud. If you finish all your food but not all the broth you get a, "Good job!" and if you don't finish all your food, you get a "Next time..." I always get a "good job" and have no desire for a "perfect" (I'd rather enjoy my food than be ill),  but some diners have found this offputting. I'm sure it's no fun having everyone in the restaurant know you didn't finish your meal. A friend told me that they just changed things again so you'll now be asked to stand after your meal and say your name and what your dream is. Might be a bit nervewracking for those who have a fear of public speaking!

You can keep up with their changing schedule and procedures on Facebook.

"A bowl of steaming, pure joy."

I've written several posts about Yume Wo Katare, but I keep learning new things so the info is scattered everywhere. I'll try to collect all the pertinent info on this page.
I highly recommend this hilarious All Things Considered segment on jiro-keiRamen Jiro Noodles: A Test of Greatness. Some guy in Japan decided through trial and error that the best thing to eat before going to a jiro ramen shop is an Asian pear for breakfast and then nothing else until you eat your ramen.

Yume Wo Katare (夢 を 語れ or  ゆめ を かたれ) [Listen] is pronounced you-meh o ka-ta-re (short vowels, w is silent, Japanese r). It translates roughly to "talk about your dreams."

Yume Wo Katare
1923 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Tel: They prefer not to publish it. Try asking them on Facebook.


Closest T stop: Red Line - Porter Square
Closest bus stop: Massachusetts Ave at Davenport St (directly in front of Yume Wo Katare)
See Yelp for more bus info.

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 5pm to 11pm
[Note: Other blogs have mistakenly reported their hours as 11am - 2am.]

Closed: Sunday & Monday
Pleas check Facebook where they publish their schedule every month. Since September 2013 they've been closing a few days additional days every month. I gather Tsuyoshi-san has been returning to Japan to hone his ramen craft.

What to Bring

  • Your appetite!
  • Your dreams
  • Friends, family, coworkers, strangers
  • Anything to amuse you while you wait in line: book, laptop, iPad, knitting, sketchpad
  • Camera (to take a picture of your monster bowl of ramen)
  • Warm coat, gloves/mittens, scarves (yes, multiple), hat/earmuffs/earwarmer, coffee/tea/hot chocolate (if it's cold)
  • Umbrella (if it's raining or snowing)
  • Breath mints/gum (for after - you'll need it if you say yes to garlic)
  • Antacids - if you manage to finish your whole meal, you might need it!
  • Tissues - You'll receive a plastic wrapped oshibori with which to wipe your hands. Paper napkins are available upon request, but you might find it easier to have your own tissues. According to Ramen Tokyo, it's common for Jiro-kei ramen shops not to have napkins. I'd forgotten that in Japan it's verboten to blow your nose in public, much less at the dinner table.
  • Cash!!!

The Rules

  • CASH ONLY. Nearest ATMs are Cambridge Savings Bank next to CVS & Sign of the Dove, Bank of AmericaCitibank.
  • No reservations.
  • No take-out. Ramen is best when it's fresh, so in order to preserve the quality of Yume Wo Katare ramen, it's eat-in only. However, you can buy pork to take home. See below.
  • No sharing, unless you're under 12. One bowl of ramen per customer.
  • No taking home leftovers.
  • No cell phone use or reading inside the restaurant.

The Food

    JUST PORK RAMEN. (For those familiar with ramen, this is Jiro-kei ramen. I consulted with Ramen Tokyo and we believe this is the first Jiro ramen shop in the United States.)
    • No non-pork broth substitute.
    • No vegetarian option (although some vegetarians have asked for just noodles and veggies and paid the Ramen price - see below under Food Allergies for more details).
    • No appetizers.
    • No dessert.
    • No alcohol.
    • No condiments.


    All ramen comes with:
    • thick al dente noodles made in-house. If you want your noodles softer, ask and they'll cook them longer.
    • a heaping serving of cabbage & bean sprout mix
    • fresh minced garlic
    • seabura known colloquially as just abura (pork back fat)
    • soy sauce-pork broth

    Choose from:
    • Ramen $12 (including tax) - 2 thick slices of pork <- Recommended for Jiro-kei beginners!
    • Buta Ramen $14 (including tax) - 5 thick slices of pork (Buta means pig)

    Toppings (veggies, garlic & abura) are free. You can have as much as you want, but please don't ask for more than you can eat. It's mottainai. You might want to wait until you see what you're dealing with before asking for more! A lot of people are surprised by just how big their ramen is.



    • If there's a line, get in line.  Once you're in line, you're definitely getting ramen. The owner gets updates on the line count and the line is cut off if he's running out of noodles or broth. Please wait on the sidewalk until you're called.

    • NOTE: When you're at the front of the line, please wait on the sidewalk behind this line. Do not block the stairs - it's a fire hazard and also just annoying for the folks who live in the apartments upstairs.

    • When you get to the front of the line you'll be directed inside to pay for your ramen & drink (see options above). This is when you should ask for extra veggies, if you want them. Update 5/15/13: It seems that you may need to wait to ask for extra veggies. Note that asking for extra will double your veggies.  The average diner probably doesn't need extra veggies. You may have read elsewhere that at this point you'll receive a plastic ramen ticket but they've started giving them directly to the chef to speed things up.
    • If you're in the first group of the evening you'll be seated immediately. 
    • Please wait to be seated. Do not grab the next available seat. When your seat is available, you may be spoken to in Japanese (even if you don't speak Japanese). You should listen for ___ mei sama, douzo. This translates roughly to, "Party of ___, please." The word in the blank will be the number in your party. 
    • Once seated, wait eagerly for your ramen.

    • When your ramen has been assembled, Tsuyoshi-san will call out "Ninniku iremasuka?" in Japanese. He's asking if you want garlic in your ramen. If you don't speak Japanese, that's okay, simply answer "yes" or "no". If you answer "yes" you'll get a very large serving of fresh minced garlic heaped on top of your already heaping ramen. You can also ask for extra garlic and extra abura at this time, although you may want to see what you're getting into before you ask for it.

    • Your ramen will be served.

    • Take a picture if you must, but ramen is best eaten quickly, so hurry!

    • Inhale. Slurp. Repeat.

    • Roll home in a "porky haze." (Customer quote from 10/16/12.)

    Other Random Info/Advice

    • The restaurant seats 18 - 6 at the counter and 12 at two long tables (they changed the set-up from a large communal table in May 2013). If you're lucky enough to get a counter seat, those are the best seats in the house. You can watch Tsuyoshi-san in action and he'll serve you your ramen.

    • If the crowds continue to come at the same pace as they have for the first four nights you can expect a 1-2+ hour wait. If the line is the length of the restaurant, the wait it probably around an hour. If the line is to Dunkin Donuts you're probably looking at 1.5 to 2 hours. If the line is the end of Dunkin Donuts, the wait is probably over 2 hours. Update 5/15/13: I ate at Yume Wo Katare a few days ago and they've changed their procedures a bit and the line seems to move more quickly now, so I don't think my estimates from October 2012 are accurate anymore. It used to be that they would rarely let anyone jump ahead in the queue but now it looks like if you're a party of 1, there's a chance you'll get in faster. How quickly the line moves all depends on how quickly people eat and leave, how many people ahead of you are waiting for their friends to arrive, and how many people ahead of you give up and leave. Note that bad weather sometimes makes the line shorter, but it may not be substantially shorter. I've seen many people wait in the rain and snow.
    • Please be considerate and concentrate on your ramen so you can eat quickly and allow your fellow diners to get in and enjoy Tsuyoshi-san's amazing ramen. Ramen is best enjoyed quickly because the noodles get soggy if you eat too slowly. I recommend eating the noodles before everything else. Keizo Shimamoto, inventor of the American Ramen Burgertunnels into jiro-kei ramen and then lets the vegetables collapse into his broth. In Japan, there's usually no talking, just eating. Tsuyoshi-san can eat his ramen in 5 minutes flat. Please don't dawdle. Thanks!
    • If you start to feel ill, don't force yourself to finish. Tsuyoshi-san's ramen is very heavy and they'd rather you enjoy what you ate than be sick.
    • There's no wifi. This isn't the kind of restaurant where you can hang out as you can see from the line above.
    • Forks are available upon request.
    • Kids are welcome! Two high chairs are available.

    • Don't plan on doing anything else afterwards except trying to waddle home and digest!
    • Drink water before you go to bed or you might end up dehydrated from all the salt.
    • Devotees of jiro-kei ramen are known as jirorian (ジロリアン). 

    What else can I buy?

    • $15 - 500g (17.64 oz) of cha-su pork to take home. Available in very fatty or less fatty. If you like the pork, you can take some home! Please note: a limited number will be available for take home. The number may vary from night to night, depending on supplies on hand. Cha-su should be eaten within 7 days. You do not need to wait in line - just go inside and ask for it at the register.

    • $15 - T-shirts - Size M only; assorted colors. Blank on front, text on back. As of May 2013 new t-shirts in English are available. Forgot to check on sizes and price. Colors available: pink, sky blue, black. (August 2014 - The t-shirt info is out-of-date. They've produced at least one if not more than one t-shirt since. If you'd like to buy a t-shirt I'd inquire at the shop about what's currently available.)

    Dream Frames

    You'll notice that the walls are covered in frames. You can rent each frame to post your "dream" (what you hope/wish for, not what you were dreaming as you slept). If it comes true in the length of time of your frame you win different prizes. Smallest frames are 1 month rental. Largest frame is 10 year rental (pictured above). This is something Tsuyoshi-san started doing at his very first ramen shop in Kyoto, which had the same name. Note: frames cannot be shared. Don't forget to sign and date your dream, leave your full name and email address (in case other customers want to reach you), and come back to claim your prize if your dream is achieved! When you return, you're supposed to point to your dream and announce to Tsuyoshi-san that you achieved it.
    • $10 - 1 month: One Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $30 - 3 months: Yume Wo Katare t-shirt + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $50 - 6 months: Custom ramen bowl with your dream written on it and then baked in a kiln + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $100 - 1 year: Special Yume Wo Katare clock + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $10,000 - 10 years: A hug from owner & chef, Tsuyoshi Nishioka + Ramen or Buta Ramen 

    Food Allergies

    Food allergies are less common and less widely known in Japan. Like all restaurants they do have MA Food Allergen Certification, but the staff may not be as aware and since they're still learning English, as much as I'd love for everyone to try it, I wouldn't recommend anyone with a severe food allergy eat here unless you're confident with your Japanese or can take a friend who can translate. They posted a number of ingredients on one of their signs but it doesn't cover everything that goes into the broth and the pork marinade.

    If you're gluten-free, unfortunately, you can't eat here. Ramen noodles are always wheat noodles and there's soy sauce in everything.

    If you can't eat pork due to allergies, religious observance, or preference, you can't eat Yume Wo Katare ramen. The broth is a pork broth and they don't have any alternative broth. Some people have requested to have only noodles & vegetables which they think is nuts since they don't think it's tasty if it's not a proper bowl of ramen. The one vegetarian bowl I saw was dressed up with bonito flakes (fish) and soy sauce. The Muslim guy I talked to on opening night seemed to enjoy his noodles so if you're feeling brave, go for it. You'll pay $12.

    Please note that even if you request only noodles & veggies, there will likely be some pork fat in there. Hot water from the noodle wok is ladled into the bowls to warm them. The same ladle is used to get the pork broth, so there's a transfer of pork to the wok in which the noodles are cooked. The same tongs are used to handle noodles, veggies, and pork. So there's no way to avoid the pork. You can only limit your exposure.

    Ingredients I know are in Yume Wo Katare ramen:
    • wheat
    • pork - lots and lots of pork & pork fat
    • soy sauce
    • cabbage & bean sprouts (cooked together)
    • garlic
    • corn starch and/or potato starch (used so the noodles won't stick together)
    • shiitake mushrooms
    • bonito flakes
    • mirin
    • MSG (Ajinomoto) - I saw a generous pinch thrown in the bowl before serving. I haven't yet found out if it's also in the broth.
    There may be other ingredients.

    What's definitely NOT in Yume Wo Katare ramen:
    • sesame
    • eggs

    Stuff Near By

    If you're freezing your ass off waiting in the 1-2+ hour line, you can get hot green tea in a can from Yume Wo Katare or coffee a few steps away at Dunkin Donuts or around the corner at Panera.

    If you decide the line is too long, there are many other restaurants in Porter Square. If you absolutely must have ramen, you can check out Sapporo in the Porter Exchange Building aka University Hall (it's a Lesley University building). There's often a line, but it probably won't be as long as Yume Wo Katare's and it's indoors. If you just want any kind of Japanese food, there are many great options inside the Porter Exchange. Several tiny restaurants: Café Mami (owned by Carlos Garcia whose brother & uncle own Ebi Sushi in Somerville), Tampopo (no website), Ittyo Restaurant (also owned by Carlos) and Blue Fin, a full-size restaurant.

    While you're in Porter, check out Miso Market, the only Japanese grocery store in Cambridge. It's only 300 feet away from Yume Wo Katare. (Unfortunately, Miso Market closed on 8/30/13.) You can also go shopping at Tokai, a Japanese gift shop inside the Porter Exchange.

    Other Reviews

    Also check out WBUR's segment: Porter Square Ramen Shop Wants To Make Your Dreams Come True


    The very first jiro-kei ramen shop is Mita Honten (三田本店), which means Mita Head Office. From Mita, several other shops were born, including one originally known as Maruji. After a branding fight with Maruji's "father," Mita Honten, the name was changed to Fujimaru. Tsuyoshi-san apprenticed at Maruji for three and a half years before moving to Kyoto in October 2006 to open his first ramen shop called 夢 を 語れ (Yumewokatare). So, in the lineage of jiro-kei restaurants, all of Tsuyoshi-san's restaurants are "grandchildren" of the original restaurant. [Source: Naomi Nishioka] In 2008 he dreamed of opening a ramen shop in America. Five more ramen shops followed before his dream came true:

    [10/16/12: Consulting with friends on translation of names. Will update once there's consensus on each one.]

    This year, they sold the five ramen shops to each of the managers so they could open Yume Wo Katare Cambridge!! By 2030 he'd like to have ramen shops in all 195 countries!

    Naomi & Tsuyoshi Nishioka

    Why I know so much

    I met the Nishiokas the day before Yume Wo Katare opened. I wandered in with a Tewassa brochure in hand (so I wasn't just some crazy person off the street) to introduce myself and say how excited my friends and I were about their restaurant. I happened to arrive just after Naomi-san's English conversation partner, who invited me to help with the afternoon's English lessons which were mostly about what customers might ask and how to respond. We discovered we had friends in common and I ended up helping with signage and hanging out talking to the guys who had come from Osaka to help with the shop opening. I stayed so late I was able to take part in a dress rehearsal, so I got my first bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen after midnight. Wanting to see what opening night was like, I offered to come back the following day and help with English-speaking customers. 

    I'm not receiving any monetary compensation for writing about Yume Wo Katare. I'm also not speaking for them in an official capacity. I'm just writing for fun and as a public service for other ramen-lovers. I photograph and write about what I'd be curious about.


    1. oh wow keiko. this is a lot of info hahha

    2. Can we take the leftover ramen home if we can't finish it?

      1. Unfortunately, no. My guess is that because by the next day the noodles would have complete soaked up the broth and not be tasty (by their standards). I'm sure they want to preserve the quality of their ramen so they only want people to eat it while it's fresh. The only thing you can take home is 500g of pork for $15.

    3. Naomi was one of my English students! Now I know where she has gone to...^^ I knew there was a ramen shop in the wings. I adore your blog and posted it to my FB ESL Community page. Thanks for all the helpful info!

    4. Keiko, my editors at the Boston Phoenix would like to talk to someone at YWK to set up a photo shoot for my upcoming review. Can you forward me an email or phone number to make this happen? I'm at mc DOT slim DOT jb AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!

    5. Does anybody know whether Yume Wo Katare is on vocation now? I remember reading about it but I don't remember when. I visited one Friday in mid-March and they were closed at that time. I hope they are open now.

      1. I don't know anything about the March closure, but they are open. The vacation was postponed. You may have read about it over at Tiny Urban Kitchen. I let her know that they weren't going to be closed and she updated her post.

      2. Keiko-san,
        Thank you very much for the information! Arigatougozaimasu! :)

    6. So how is it compared to similar ramen in Tokyo?

      1. No clue. Haven't been to Tokyo since I was a kid. :) Ramen Tokyo has a bunch of reviews of jiro style ramen shops.

    7. Is it possible to gift dream frames by purchasing them in advance of your friend's arrival?

      1. I'm not sure. I would think that would be something they could arrange, but you'd have to check with them.