Since 2012, Yume Wo Katare, the no-frills ramen emporium in Porter Square, has encouraged patrons to follow their dreams and slurp their noodles with abandon. The restaurant has been an undeniable smash, cultivating a loyal following in the Cambridge/Somerville area. People come not just for the lauded ramen, but for the welcoming, hopeful vibes. The window is sincerely emblazoned with the phrase, “This is a place to share dreams!” It seems that this ambitious little enterprise offers up the most delicious self-empowerment seminar in all of Boston.
Yume Wo Katare recently celebrated its six year anniversary, fêted with a presentation here at Harvard from master ramen-making “members,” as well as the stateside return of the Japanese shop’s founding owner, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Such festivities were in order, as their popularity has not waned. Even on a rainy Thursday evening, the line of hungry, shivering ramen-lovers stretched down the block. And for the most part, this enthusiasm continues to be validated. While the ramen itself is still notable, if not mind-blowing, the homey ambiance and singular experience of eating at Yume Wo Katare are what really merit a visit.
The shop is small, with enough seating for around 18 people. The space reads more cozy home theater than restaurant; the three rows of seating face directly into the kitchen, where the chefs periodically hoist thick bundles of resplendent noodles up into eyesight. A bright blue wall is covered with written dreams of past patrons, as well as two colorful numbers — 29,000, the number of dreams collected so far, and 45,000, their dream goal... of dreams. Patrons can participate in the “dream system,” in which customers are encouraged to stand at the end of the meal and share a dream of theirs, big or small, with the room. Though the prospect may seem daunting, the employees are so charmingly laid-back that even the most timid public speaker would feel comfortable pronouncing their desires.
There are just two options for food here: the $13 regular-size traditional jiro ramen, and the $15 buta, a larger bowl of the same ramen with extra pork. The ramen comes out quickly, to one row at a time, but not before the chef makes eye contact with each individual down the banquet and asks, “Delicious garlic?” One would be remiss to decline. The accurately named delicious garlic adds refreshing sweetness to what is a truly hefty bowl of ramen; this big-stomached reporter struggled to finish the regular. The part of their philosophy stating that “if you can finish a bowl of ramen here, you can do anything” rings very true. Each serving contains an ample helping of house-made noodles under thick slabs of pork, topped with pork fat and a copious smattering of cabbage and bean sprouts. The pork is rather chewy, and perhaps unnecessarily salty, but still stands out well against a broth that packs a flavorful punch. The noodles are the highlight — sumptuous and tangy, with a satisfying bite and a pleasingly absorptive flavor. Their suppleness helps to undercut any toughness in the pork.
Without much variety in the spice notes, the bowl becomes a bit of a slog to get through after a certain point, more so even than a classic case of ramen fatigue. But the experience is buoyed by the occasional dream-sharer, who, after having their finished bowl declared an “almost,” a “good job,” or a “perfect” by a friendly employee, pops out of their seat and opens their heart to a group of strangers.
Indeed, having a meal here is about more than food. Yume Wo Katare has built a collective community of support in Porter Square, an ethos of love that imbues the space with ebullient positivity. It’s hard not to have a good time when the entire joint is predicated on lifting one another up and warming the bones with ramen. Above a swooping, hand-painted “Yume Wo Katare,” the restaurant’s sign reads “until 2030.” Yet after just one meal here, it is easy to imagine this cheeky community of dreamers keeping its doors open for much longer.
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