Saturday, August 24, 2013

Snappy Ramen: Davis Square now has Ramen

The Snappy Sushi sign is still up

Update 9/28/13: Finally made it back to Snappy to try the Tsukemen. It was very good and the pork belly was much improved. The menu and interior has changed a little bit since my last visit. Ramen is now more customizable. Most bowls start with a cheap basic ramen with a few toppings to which you can add extra toppings. The prices appear lower, but I think that just reflects them moving some of the toppings to the extra toppings list (i.e.: Tonkotsu is now $9, but doesn't include pork belly which you can add for $3, which equals $12, the original Tonkotsu price).


Sometime in the past few days, Snappy Sushi in Davis Square became Snappy Ramen. The sign still says Snappy Sushi, but there's a new logo on the door and the sign in the window spells out Snappy Ramen. The restaurant has been redecorated and the seating reconfigured.

They're still serving sushi, but the menu is limited to just 10 options.  There are currently 5 options for ramen:
  • Chicken Shoyu - $10 - no pork
  • Tonkotsu - $12 - pork broth
  • Spicy Miso - $14 - pork broth
  • Tsukemen - $14 - pork & fish broth. Not available until next week. Tsukemen is usually served with very hot broth separate from cold noodles which you dip in the broth. Snappy plans to serve warm broth separate from lukewarm noodles. 
  • Cold Ramen - $10 - sesame-based sauce. Similar to mazamen. There's usually a crabstick in it, but it can be made vegetarian. This is just on the menu for summer.
In addition, they have 3 options for appetizers and an assortment of Japanese and American beer. I asked the waitress if there were any plans to expand the menu over time and she wasn't sure. I wasn't able to ask the chef at that point because they were too busy. Will find out next time I go.

Apparently they serve ramen at Snappy Sushi on Newbury Street, which I wasn't aware of. The ramen at Snappy Ramen is different - the broth takes 4-6 hours to make, whereas on Newbury Street they're using commercially-made paste to make the broth. Snappy Sushi and Snappy Ramen are owned by Kazu Aotani, who also owns Yakitori Zai. I should note that I know Kazu-san socially through my activities with Tewassa. He's been a big supporter, providing gift certificates for our Christmas concert last year, bringing Zai's yakitori chef to cook at one of our quilt send-off parties, and feeding the volunteers at a showing of Fukushima 2011: Chronicles from the Heartland.

Fans of Yakitori Zai's weekend ramen lunch may wonder if the ramen is the same as Zai. I thought it might be, but I was told that while Snappy's ramen is the same style as Zai's, they're using different recipes.

Tonkotsu minus negi and fried onions

I was a big fan of Zai's tonkotsu so I had to try Snappy's. It comes with commercially-made straight soba-like noodles that are traditional for tonkotsu ramen, two pieces of pork belly (mine came with one medium sized and one small), a big pile of what are often called wood ear mushrooms - the unfortunate correct name is actually cloud ear fungus or arage kikurage (キクラゲ) in Japanese, lightly toasted sesame seeds, and negi (scallions) and fried onions (not pictured because I got mine without). 

The broth was on the full-bodied side, but not as rich or as creamy as Zai's broth which was opaque. I could actually see my noodles at Snappy. The pork belly was a little confusing. I couldn't decide if it was kakuni or cha-su so I asked. Chef Youji Iwakura said it's a bit of both - he started cooking it as kakuni but finished as cha-su. While the flavor was good, it wasn't as soft as Zai or Osushi's kakuni or Yume Wo Katare's cha-su. I'm hoping that was a one-time problem. I happen to really like wood ear so I enjoyed it even though it's not a commonly used ingredient, which the chef acknowledged. The toasted sesame was a nice addition and added a subtle nutty flavor. The noodles tasted the same as what Zai was using on a couple of my visits there (on some visits they were using the curly noodles that most people are familiar with). 

Front: Chicken Shoyu, Back: Spicy Miso

Snappy Ramen seats 6 at the bar, 12 at a large table in the center of the room, and up to 4 at a smaller table near the window. I think their total capacity may be 23 because I saw an additional chair off to the side. They also have one high chair.

I arrived a few minutes after they opened so service was fast, but they're still training their staff and probably still working things out in the cooking process so I'd expect service and food to vary in the next few weeks. When I left, the restaurant was less than half full but was extremely noisy. If you're looking for a restaurant to have a quiet private conversation, this isn't it, especially since you're likely to be seated at the large table.

Snappy's ramen is quite different from Yume Wo Katare and Sapporo Ramen in nearby Porter Square so I don't see them as being in direct competition. I also suspect that there's enough business to go around regardless. I'm sure some people will love Snappy Ramen and other's will hate it.

Snappy's prices are a bit on the high side compared with other ramen in Boston. My meal was around $15 after tax and tip. I can't decide if the food quality justifies the prices. I think perhaps not. The restaurant is not as upscale as Zai or Osushi (which both charge $14 for ramen) and they don't put as much work into the broth as some other restaurants. The noodles aren't handmade. However, I didn't leave hungry (a problem I have at Sapporo) and the broth was good enough to finish, so I will definitely be back. I encourage readers to check it out for yourselves and let me know what you think!

Additional photos.


  1. I went last Friday and had the tonkotsu too. I really enjoyed the broth - it's the first time in a long while that I drank every last drop in a bowl of ramen. The pork slices were slightly disappointing: it had good thickness and mix of fatty+lean, but as you said, it wasn't as soft as I'd like. Personally I like the green onions so was happy to get a lot of it. Overall I would pick this place over Sapporo. It is indeed a bit pricey; oddly, the beer is relatively cheap at $4 or so.

    1. I saw a Yelp reviewer who also complained about the toughness of the pork so I guess that's something they'll have to work on. I was hoping it was just a one time problem. :/ I think I read somewhere that Sapporo does their broth over 24 hours but I find the house broth bland (the other broths might not be, but I can't have them due to allergies). I didn't think Snappy's tonkotsu broth had the same depth as Zai's and I would happily pay $2 more for a richer broth, but I thought it was tasty enough.

  2. "However, I didn't leave hungry (a problem I have at Sapporo)"

    Seriously?! I thought the Chicken Shoyu I had today was much smaller than the ramens I've had at Sapporo.

    1. I always get the House Ramen at Sapporo. Sometimes with extra noodles (which is not much extra considering the price) and I always leave a little hungry. No idea why. If I had to guess, I'd bet the Chicken Shoyu broth isn't as filling as the Tonkotsu. I drained my bowl and ate everything in it (noodles, pork, and wood ear) and I wasn't hungry when I left.