I count at least seven restaurants on Harvard and Porter Squares that serve ramen. Some, like Yume Wo Katare, where people line up for a communal, ritualistic sip, are festivals and attractions. Others, like Sapporo Ramen and One Ramen & Sushi, go about their work calmly and well. The nascent Bosso Ramen Tavern on Holyoke Street off Harvard Square is more of the former, with the vibe of a Tokyo izakaya (a vibrant spot for late-night drinks complete with sushi and comfort food) fused with a classic American pub. The space is warm and woody, with all things radiating from a sake bar centerpiece. The name is a reference to the Bōsō Peninsula south of Tokyo, where owner Yasu Sasago is from.
Bosso makes his broth with both pork and chicken; in most other places it’s either-or. There are four or five customizable base offerings, including a fully vegetarian version and a Sanmi Tomato, which sounds more like Italian cuisine than anything you like, with its intriguing blend of cherry tomatoes, Chinese chives, Parmesano, soy chicken, and basil pesto. d find in a Japanese restaurant. Other places tend to just throw the kitchen sink in the bowl, but the basic umami shoyu I ordered came with scallions, chashu pork, kikurage mushroom, and half a soft-boiled egg; I added seaweed. (As far as ramen add-ins go, I also noticed a spice-meat bomb.) The broth wasn’t what I would call flavorful, but it was clean, surprisingly light and flavorful, and totally satisfying.
The food is presented quite magnificently on wooden trays, with extras in small bonchon-like accompaniments. An unagi hand-roll I started with also came well presented on a ceramic stand, although it resembled a seaweed taco more than the conical hand-rolls found at most sushi shops. There are countless options for tuna and avocado, sake (salmon) and so on.
Of course, the place has a carefully curated list of high-end sake and Japanese cocktails, as well as a solid reheat menu, which on the day I ate included deep-fried gyozas, edamame hummus, seared Saikyo salmon, Norishio fries ( extra fried, with sesame) and a fried ham and blue cheese cutlet. For dessert there is Japanese sweet potato with black sesame ice cream.
Ordering is done through the Toast app, accessed by scanning a code with a smart device; It’s a trend in restaurants. When it’s all done, just complete your check in the app, leave a tip, and leave. Bosso also has an Instagram account but no website, and when ordering for pickup – there’s no delivery as far as I can tell – it is also made by toast.
The playful nature of Basso’s menu is embraced and reflected in the energy of the staff, and the cosmopolitan yet casual community vibe is accentuated with a dash of endearingly silly panache. It all makes for a happy, haunting celebration, with food and drink available for lunch, dinner, or late into the night. (Well, not too late. Bosso closes at 10pm)
Cambridge author Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and the literary journal SLAB. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and bikes everywhere.
feature image is from Bosso Ramen Tavern via Instagram.