I just may have discovered a new favorite Japanese noodle shop.
It's a tiny little gem of a place in Allston (a neighborhood in Boston) that's tucked right next to Hong Kong Market (formerly Super 88). Pikaichi has been in that space for quite some time now, taking over the beloved old favorite Ken's Ramen Shop. I stopped going out in that direction a few years back because I stopped shopping at the supermarket when it started to struggle. After the market changed hands and improved, I sort of got used to not going out there.
Until I discovered their noodles.
Pikaichi's fresh ramen noodles are wonderfully chewy ("QQ") and among the best I've had in Boston. The restaurant sources its noodles from Sun Noodle Company, the same company that makes noodles for some of New York's finest ramen shops, like Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ivan Ramen, and many others.
In fact, a little known fact is that most ramen restaurants in New York source their fresh handmade ramen noodles from just three companies. With the exception of a few places (like Ippudo, for example, who make their own), most ramen shops don't have the capacity to make their own fresh noodles.
Of course, noodles alone does not a ramen restaurant make. However, I think Pikaichi has a nice combination of everything that makes it a casual place that I enjoy visiting over and over.
The ambiance inside feels decidedly Japanese. I can almost imagine that I am in Tokyo, stopping by a casual neighborhood ramen shop. I am pretty certain the workers are Japanese and speak Japanese to each other. It's a tiny shop with only a handful of seats so you may have to wait during busy seasons. However, each time we've gone, the staff have been extremely friendly in trying their best to get us seated as soon as possible.
The first time we went during the summer, they had this special yuzu cold ramen dish that I loved.
Cold noodles were tossed together with fresh leafy greens, corn, and I *think* tuna (or is it pork?) in a spicy, yuzu kosho sauce. The noodles were especially toothsome since they were cold. I took half of it home as leftovers and enjoyed them immensely the next day.
The menu includes your basic ramen types, such as a shoyu (soy) based broth, a miso based broth, and a spicy broth. During the winter they also have a yuzu shoyu based broth, which is my favorite.
Pikaichi claims they give a larger portion of noodles (6 ounces) unlike standard ramen places that only give 5 ounces. I personally think their portion size is pretty large, although Bryan finds it doesn't quite fill him up, maybe due to the fact that there's not a huge amount of meat.
You can always order small supplementary rice dishes for about $2, such as chashu over rice (chashudon) or curry over rice (curry-don), if you are hungry.
The restaurant also serves other simple fare, such as curry katsu (my sister's favorite) . . .
. . . and tonkatsu (my mom's favorite).
I like how their sign encourages diners to start eating the noodles right away, since they care about the texture of the noodle and understand that the longer it sits, the less perfect the noodles become.
All in all, I just really like this place. I have to confess that I haven't tried the whole menu. In fact, we've only tried the noodles, but we like them a lot. I do think it's one of my favorite simple Japanese noodle places. Sure, I'll always have a special place in my heart for other handmade noodle shops, such as Yume Wo Katare and Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe. However, I see those places more as "once in awhile" type places, due to their enormous portions or high caloric dishes.
Pikaichi feels cozy, serves excellent noodles, and overall is pretty healthy. It's the perfect type of place at which to become a regular.
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