Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yume Wo Katare v. Sapporo Ramen: Apples & Oranges

Left: Yume Wo Katare Ramen without garlic  Right: Sapporo House Ramen without scallions

People always ask me, "Which is better - Yume Wo Katare or Sapporo?" I don't think it's a fair question, because it's like comparing apples and oranges.

Before Yume Wo Katare opened I wondered if it wasn't a little unfair of them to open so close to Sapporo Ramen when there are so many other parts of town that are lacking in nearby ramen. I wondered if Sapporo was worried about competition. After having my first bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen I realized they're really not in direct competition. Just about the only thing Yume Wo Katare ramen and Sapporo ramen have in common is that they're bowls of soup noodles with veggies and meat on top. That's where the similarities end.

I have to confess to no longer being a fan of Sapporo. I used to eat there quite regularly, but a few years ago they changed their broth and menu and got rid of one of my favorites (Seaweed Ramen). I tried the new ramen a few times and went as recently as this week with a friend who doesn't eat pork, and I still don't understand why it's so popular. I stopped going to Sapporo a while ago because I found the new broth fairly flavorless. My recent visit was the same. It's possible that other ramen at Sapporo has more flavor, but due to food allergies, the House Ramen is the only one I can eat. 

Aside from the broth, my biggest problem with Sapporo is that I'm still hungry when I'm done eating. I've even tried ordering their ramen with extra noodles. Still hungry. If I'm paying $10+ (including tip) for a meal, I don't want to leave hungry. Pikaichi serves slightly more noodles in their Tokyo Shoyu Ramen, but when I was ordering just ramen, I would leave a little hungry. Then I noticed you can add a bowl of curry (or cha-su don) for $1.99. Problem solved. Sapporo has sides, but none sized for an individual. My current favorite of Sapporo, Pikaichi, and Mentei is Pikaichi. Yume Wo Katare is in a class by itself. I find their ramen too rich to eat regularly, although I've noticed some of their customers eat there weekly or even more than once a week.

I've heard that Sapporo's business is up since Yume Wo Katare opened. Many people don't want to stand in a 2 hour line at Yume Wo Katare, but they want a bowl a noodles, so they'll head over to Sapporo. The wait time at Yume Wo Katare continues to be long even though they recently expanded their hours by an hour each night. Others leave Yume Wo Katare after learning they serve only pork ramen since they can't or don't eat pork (or even meat). Sapporo's main broth is made with chicken & vegetables and they also have a vegetarian broth.

I tell everyone who likes pork that they should try Yume Wo Katare. Their ramen is definitely more value for your dollar, but not everyone can/wants to eat a bowl of noodles as calorific as theirs or stand in line in the cold for 1-2 hours. Since opinion on Sapporo is so divided, I recommend that people try it for themselves even though I'm not a fan. Really, with only four ramen restaurants in Boston, it's easy to try all four and decide for yourself.


Yume Wo Katare Ramen - $12 (including tax) 
  • Broth: Extremely rich (some say too rich), fairly salty (some say too salty), a little sweet tonkotsu (pork & soy sauce) broth (some have described it as being closer to a light gravy).
  • Noodles: 350g of wide, dense, house-made noodles cooked al dente.  Chewy but soft.
  • Pork: Two large, thick, fatty slices of rolled pork belly. They're not always consistent - some days saltier than others, some pieces fattier than others.
  • Other Toppings: Briefly boiled bean sprouts & cabbage (fairly consistent from day to day), seabura (pork back fat - some people find this too rich), and a heap of fresh minced garlic. Extra toppings are free.
Sapporo House Ramen - $9.50 (including tax)
  • Broth: Thick but flavorless (to me anyway - some people rave about the flavor of their broth) chicken & vegetable broth. I've heard people refer to their broth as "rich." It's certainly a little richer than your average ramen broth, but I don't find it rich. I feel that the broth is lacking in depth.
  • Noodles: I'm not sure what the portion is but it's on the small side - my guess is around 140g of thin, light, commercially-made noodles cooked al dente. I find their noodles are usually more al dente than I'd like but I always forget to ask them to cook them longer.
  • Pork: Two small, thin slices of lean pork with very little flavor.
  • Other Toppings: Sweet corn, raw bean sprouts, half of a medium well boiled egg (I thought mine was perfectly boiled the other day but I've seen a lot of complaints about their overcooked eggs), one tiny square of nori (roasted seaweed), and scallions. There is a charge for extra toppings.

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