|Pikaichi's ramen broth. You can see chicken, onions, and kombu floating on top.|
Finally! I get to write about ramen again! Yesterday was a great day for ramen because it was on the cool side and blustery so I headed to Pikaichi in Allston for lunch. I've never been there on delivery day before and got to see the delivery guys wheel in two massive stacks of ramen from Sun Noodle's New Jersey factory. Sun makes these noodles exclusively for Pikaichi. They are not the same as noodles you can find in stores, although Pikaichi does sell their noodles uncooked if you want to make your own at home.
|There is another stack behind this.|
When I asked the staff if it was okay if I took a picture of the delivery they asked their boss and I finally got to meet owner, Taka Akatsu. He invited me into the kitchen to check out the broth which they make from chicken, pork, onions, kombu and other ingredients. Taka-san said that making the broth is tricky because the chickens they get are always a little bit different. They may look the same but the meat and bones vary which affects the flavor. They do use some Ajinomoto (MSG), but just a little bit to boost the flavor. Otherwise, he said the taste would be flat. The mistake some places make is in using too much. I told him that I feel like their ramen is the most consistent I've had in Boston, different chickens or not.
|It's a very, very large pot.|
Commonwealth Avenue used to be Ramen Row for a little while with Inaka and Totto Ramen down the street but Inaka closed with no explanation either early this year or late last year (I first noticed at the end of January). I wasn't surprised. I went three times and found their ramen either lacking in flavor or with flavors that were off. It just missed the mark for me. They did have some very loyal fans but when I went with a large group reaction was mixed, even among the Japanese folks. Also, although some people reported that the owner was from Osaka, he wasn't some gruff old ramen master, he was a Taiwanese Japanese American BU grad who had been born in Osaka. I never found out who was in the kitchen making the ramen and if the chef had been trained in Japan. The owner was always working as host when I went. I was not surprised they found it hard to compete with Pikaichi, which has both better food (in my opinion) and a better location (closer to the T and with a lot of traffic due to the grocery store). After Totto Ramen opened last year I was planning to check it out after they'd had a few months to settle into a routine but their Yelp reviews continue to be wildly uneven and I've heard from friends how expensive it is so I haven't been motivated to go. No need to stand in line for overpriced ramen when I can just plan to go to Pikaichi during hours when there are no lines. Their prices still remain the most reasonable in the city and Pikachi continues to be my favorite ramen in Boston, though I do like Yume Wo Katare and Snappy Ramen as well.
See also: Pikaichi: A Taste of Japan in Allston