Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ramen @ Osushi in Harvard Square

I've been meaning to get to this post for a couple of weeks but haven't had a chance.

You may have heard that Osushi recently opened a location in Harvard Square (the original location is inside the Westin in Copley Square). One of my friends told me they had ramen on the menu at the Harvard Square location so I knew I had to check it out. Osushi is following the ramen trend that other upscale restaurants have been experimenting with.

It's on the menu for $14 as Tonkotsu Ramen with "Pork broth, pickled vegetable, ginger, scallions, egg, nori." The waitress told me that I could get it with either kakuni (pork belly) or mentaiko (spicy pollock roe). I was with a large group of people who included some friends of the owner so the waitress said she'd just bring me some mentaiko on the side, since I wasn't sure which would be better. (It seems that I've never actually had mentaiko before and that I don't care for it. If you haven't had it before, it's much different in flavor and texture from ikura (salmon roe) or tobiko (flying fish roe). Other people were very excited about the mentaiko option.)

Tonkotsu Ramen minus scallions - $14

What was in my bowl: broth, noodles (I'd guess it was a standard Japanese serving size - maybe 5 oz), 2 kinds of tsukemonobeni shōga (pickled ginger) & what my friend identified as takana (pickled mustard leaf) with sesame seeds, a boiled egg, 2 smallish pieces of kakuni, and chili threads. I ordered my ramen without scallions since I hate them. 

As of January 12th, the ramen was being imported from Yamachan Ramen in California, but I was told that the owner was planning to switch to a supplier in New Jersey. I wasn't aware of any ramen suppliers in NJ, but when I got home I found this article about the Sun Noodle factory in Teterboro. I had no idea they had a factory there, although considering all the ramen restaurants in NYC, I guess it's not surprising. The tsukemono are packaged, so the only part of the ramen that's made in house is the broth, the kakuni, and the egg, which after being boiled is marinated for several hours with the kakuni.

My initial impression was that it wasn't worth $14. Having seen what goes into the making of ramen at Yume Wo Katare where you can get twice as much less processed food in your bowl for $12-14, Osushi's ramen didn't measure up.  I was there unexpectedly at 10pm, so I'd already eaten a few hours before, but I know this wouldn't be enough food for a meal. The kakuni and the egg were excellent, but the rest didn't excite me. I would have loved a plateful of kakuni with a bowl of rice. The broth didn't taste particularly porky to me (perhaps I've been eating at Yume Wo Katare too often). Although the broth was on the mild side, the other flavors were strong and I felt that they were competing with instead of complementing one another. Everyone else I was with seemed to enjoy their ramen, so maybe it was just me. I do plan to go back sometime when I haven't already eaten and see if I still have the same impression.

I'm told that ramen is only served at dinner. They're open for dinner from 5pm until 2am (sushi bar closes at 11pm and kitchen closes at 1:30am). That means if you want ramen at 1am, this is the only place in town where you can get it. Getting a table for 10 at 10pm on a Thursday night was no problem, although they'd only been open since late December so people might not know they're there. There were only a few other customers. Our waitress told me they're still in the soft opening phase. I'd encourage people to try it for themselves and not take my word for it. If you do go, please let me know what you think!

Update 2/24/13:
I made it back to Osushi to try their ramen for a second time. This time, the ramen wasn't on the menu, although the waitress was confused when I asked her about it, because she said it should have been. Someone had previously told me that ramen wasn't listed on the menu so I was surprised to see it last time I went. Not sure if it was an oversight or if they only want the ramen to be available to those in the know. She said it was available 2 ways - with or without kakuni. I didn't inquire about the mentaiko and I forgot to ask if they'd changed noodle vendors yet.

Kuro Buta Pork Kakuni - $14

While waiting for my friend I ordered the Kuro Buta Pork Kakuni appetizer. Having had a friend's amazing kakuni at New Year's, I was curious about Osushi's take on it. I felt it was a little overpriced at $14 - one piece of kakuni, one boiled egg, 2 daikon halves, and a small tower of pressed steamed spinach (like ohitashi) under some sprouts and spring onions, in a very salty broth. The kakuni was as delicious as last time, but I felt like I was paying for the presentation more than anything.

Tonkotsu Ramen - $14

The ramen was slightly different this time. I thought the broth was a little spicer and there were what I think was kikurage (a type of fungus I've most often eaten in Chinese hot & sour soup). This time there was only half a boiled egg. Unfortunately, my impression was the same - the kakuni was excellent but there are too many flavors competing. My friend, however, though it was delicious and worth $14, so it's probably just a matter of personal taste.

Complimentary green tea ice cream

The highlight of the evening was finding out that they offer complimentary green tea ice cream if you ask about dessert. I'm so glad my friend asked if they had a dessert menu. Unfortunately, it's their only dessert option, so if you don't like green tea ice cream you're out of luck. It was quite possibly the best green tea ice cream I've ever had - creamy, not too bitter, not too sweet. I was thinking about it for the rest of the night!


  1. Just discovered your blog when researching "inaniwa udon" which I just enjoyed at Ittyo in Porter Exchange. Are you on Facebook or Twitter, I would love to follow your posts. I'm hapa and always on the hunt for Japanese food and events in Boston, not so easy as you know. Will see if I can find you via share links.

    1. Hi Jacqueline, Thanks for your comment! I always wonder how people find my blog. I've been working on a post for Ittyo but I want to go back a few more times and try different things. They've been under new management for a few months and just started serving inaniwa udon in January. I'm really excited by the new menu.

      Unfortunately, I'm not on Facebook or Twitter. The New England Japanese American Citizens League newsletter is a great source for Japanese and Asian events in Boston. They'll email it to you if you're a member but you can also download from their website a few days after it goes out. Showa Boston does a lot of community events. You can check out my directory page for other Japanese organizations that might be of interest to you. The biggest Japanese event of the year is coming up in May: They moved it to Government Center this year because it was so mobbed at Copley last year.