Tsurumen, Davis Sq., Somerville, MA


#1

I’ve been in Somerville for months now and I love ramen, but somehow had never made it to Tsurumen to try their chicken broth version. When I heard they’d be closing this Friday for a few weeks because the chef is going back to Japan to work on his ramen technique (this may actually just mean he’s visiting relatives!), I decided to check it out.

Got there at a little before six, and it was already open. There were four honest-to-god salarymen in there before me, laughing and taking selfies with the chef. (Maybe already I like this place). The space inside is bright and clean and open–if memory serves, this location used to house a slightly dingy but classic Italian bakery, and it’s sure a lot different today. Right away there are other things I warm to–the really limited 3 item menu, the serve yourself water and utensils, the set price with no tipping and the eat in only/no takeout policy. Because seriously, what sort of enemy of quality gets takeout ramen?

Ordered the paitan ramen, which has the purportedly thicker broth. It’s pretty good too, with a lot of deep chicken flavor and almost no greasiness at all. Salt level is balanced just to the low side. The noodles are from the Yume Wo Katare machine and they’re bouncy and cooked just right, and the range of toppings offer variety–some fresh scallion, crunchy bean sprouts, diced red onion and marinated bamboo shoot work in contrast to the slight fattiness of the thin sliced pork. Lastly, the egg: I often complain about poorly cooked eggs at a lot of local ramen joints, some going so far as to serve you one with the dreaded green ring around the yolk. Gang, i can assure you that this is not a problem here at all as the onsen egg is so barely set that I’ll warn you away from it if you’re skittish about runniness of any sort. Personally, I prefer them this way.

The Boston area has a pretty respectable ramen scene these days. Tsurumen is a nice player in this space, and I’d be happy to go back to try the other two things on the menu.


#2

So young, yet so cynical. You show promise.

Nice report. Thanks.


#3

Thanks for the review! Actually, it’s in the former space of Snappy Ramen, formerly Snappy Sushi. They had done the renovation a number of years back and as far as I can tell it doesn’t look much different. They moved over to what used to be iYo and are now Snappy Kitchen, still serving ramen. Whew.


#4

Great report, thanks! Going on my list…I guess for the fall.


#5

Or splits a bowl?! (One of my ramen pet peeves!)


#6

In general, absolutely. However Santouka has a very cute and effective solution for young children dining with their parents. The kids ket a mini setup of a bowl, cup, spoon, chopsticks, etc. and so the adult can share their ramen.


#7

you’re correct that was what was there right before. But there used to be an old school Italian bakery on this block when I lived in Somerville over ten years ago. I think it was this particular spot, but I could be wrong.


#8

snappy ramen replaced la contessa, the ‘slightly dingy, classic italian bakery,’ which made an elegant pizza chiena for easter, and outstanding cannolis all the time.


#9

thank you! I could not remember the name of that place. They had decent Italian cookies as well.


#10

Ah, yes. I did in fact live here then, but apparently my memory only goes back to the Snappy era. I always wondered why Davis didn’t have a bakery. The Caramel “Macarons & Patisseries” does not fill that void for me. Actually, I can’t even go in there in protest of their pluralization of the word for pastry shop.


#11

Assuming this was for dinner? At first read I wondered if Tsurumen had expanded their lunch hours beyond Fri-Sun. I wish they would!


Pizza Suggestions? - Greater Boston
#12

no, they apparently opened at noon on Monday-Tuesday just to serve this. Tsurumen does this right on their Instagram, they announced it the day before there but I missed it. Not totally sure they would have still had it at 5 when I got to Davis though.


#13

thanks for the tip. Insta feed added.


#14

Today Tsurumen said on their Instagram that they’d be serving 20 bowls of duck tsukemen from open, so I figured I’d walk up there for a bowl. I sat at the counter, which was perfect. This place has a good simple atmosphere, and I really like it–I can’t figure the Georgia O’Keefe print in the bathroom out, but otherwise it’s got a proper ramen joint feel.

The tsukemen was amazing–the cool noodles had a great bite to them and the broth itself was dark, dense in flavor and fatty but as usual not at all greasy. The pieces of duck that were served with it were tender and the onsen egg add in was cooked a bit more than the last time I was here, but still good and not overdone.

I’m a big fan of this place. I think the chef really cares, and it shows.


#15

When in town, I’ve been visiting Tsurumen on an almost weekly basis since they instituted their new lunch “power hour” from 12-1p Mon-Thu. I have to say that this has become my favorite ramen place around. In general the dishes are all delicious but not so heavy that I can’t be productive in the afternoon after eating. The portions are satisfying without being belly busting.

Both of their standard ramen offerings are very good. I slightly prefer the complexity of the paitan. The specials are really, well…special. The pork maze soba is so rich and garlicky, it’s an incredibly satisfying dish. The flavor really explodes in your mouth without overwhelming the palate. Last week was my first experience with the dote soba which I look forward to trying again. The beef is wonderfully tender and the konnyaku root and starch cake were new for me. The chef’s use of garlic is very much in agreement with my love of it. The non broth soba offerings can be just the thing when you don’t want a lot of broth sloshing around in your tummy. Another beautiful special a few weeks back was the wild mushroom tsukemen, the flavor was earthy, savory and everything that is good about mushrooms. I look forward to trying whatever special is next on the horizon.

I don’t know what the arrangement is with Snappy, but chef Onishi appears to have full control of Tsurumen, it’s menu and operation. He keeps it simple and focuses on perfecting his craft. His love of the food shows in the end product. It’s also to see the place run in a non corporate way. One day I got there a bit before it opened, but chef and his staff were ready and beckoned me inside. I hope more people support their lunch hour so they might expand it a bit further.


(Peter Sward) #16

Thanks for the posting. I had no idea that they now are doing lunch during the week.


#17

yeah, I love this place. Haven’t gone lately since I’ve been hitting up Yume Ga Arukara for udon a few times before I leave that part of town, but once I start going back through Davis in my way home it’ll be back in the rotation. And the specials are great–I hope they do the sobas again soon so I can check that out.


#18

Between you and uni, you have, like, the best two lives.


#19

interesting update on their Insta today. it says “every 200 days the menu changes to reflect a different ramen during the chef’s life”. their 200th day celebration is Sunday. curious to see what things change to next week!


#20

I decided to brave the weather today to go down to Davis and celebrate the 200th day of my favorite local ramen joint. Got there ten minutes early and waited in line with plenty of other aficionados, getting pelted with sleet the whole time. The chef came out before anyone got let in and thanked us for coming and talked a little about how this was the last day they’d be serving the two kinds of bowls they’d had since the opening, but that it’d be the best bowls of all.

I got the spicy paitan, since that’s the one I really like most and luckily snagged a seat at the counter. It was as good as ever–great noodles, crunchy red onion/burdock, unbelievably tender pork and a balanced, beautiful broth. The onsen egg as always was ideal, just set and soft as can be. I’ll miss this meal, a lot.

The atmosphere was so nice–lots of fans happily getting ramen, free stickers for the first fifty customers and cool commemorative t-shirts for sale, people photographing and filming and the happy chef and staff effusively appreciative of everyone who came out. There were more dedicated folks still standing in line outside when I left, sleet be damned, waiting for their last shot at the paitan or 1985 style since after today it’s on to something else.

What that is they wouldn’t tell me. The chef is going back to Japan for a bit, and when they open back up in February whatever the new thing is will be there for the eating. I can’t wait to see what it is.