In Medford, it’s ramen, all ramen, all the time
New Yuzu Shio Ramen at Pikaichi Ramen in Medford.
The New Yuzu Shio Ramen is flavored by the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu, which imbues the broth with a mellow lemony flavor, and is further enhanced by tender corn kernels as well as other toppings.
WHO’S IN CHARGE Snow had blanketed the area, drivers were navigating slick roads, pedestrians had to vault over snowbanks. Nonetheless, on a recent December morning, the small foyer of Pikaichi Ramen in Medford was packed with patrons waiting for tables or takeout. What draws them are steaming bowls of ramen filled with savory broth, noodles, meat, scallions, corn, seaweed, spices, and other ingredients. Pikaichi’s variation on this Japanese standard has inspired a loyal clientele since it opened in April 2018. Owner Takahiro Akatsu came to the Boston area from his native Japan at age 19 to attend college; he had cooked in Japan and found jobs cooking here. What he really wanted to tackle, said his wife, Ritsuko Akatsu, was the challenge of cooking ramen, what she calls “the soul food of Japan.’’ The couple ran Pikaichi Ramen in Allston for eight years until the ramen shop was forced out by rising rent costs — an increasingly familiar refrain in the Boston area. The couple was able to find a space formerly occupied by a Mexican restaurant on Boston Avenue in Medford.
THE LOCALE In restaurants, there is fancy décor, modest décor, and minimal décor, and then there is no décor. The latter describes Pikaichi. There are two rooms — one a foyer with an open-air kitchen, and the other with bare ebony walls and wood tables, graced only with food allergy charts about the entrees. The primary art you see is on the T-shirts of the friendly and generally very busy wait staff. This simplicity mimics the single-mindedness of the menu: It’s ramen. All ramen, all the time.
ON THE MENU But oh, the pleasure of Pikaichi’s ramen! The recipes have been lovingly developed by Akatsu, who does most of the cooking. The Tokyo Shoyu Ramen ($8.49) with soy-sauce-flavored ramen, with chicken, pork, and vegetable broth, is straightforward and hearty. It is topped with slices of tender pork, wakame seaweed, and scallions; you’ll suck up every last bit. New Yuzu Shio Ramen ($9) is flavored by the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu, which imbues the broth with a mellow lemony flavor, and is further enhanced by the tender corn kernels as well as other toppings. Pika Miso Ramen ($9) has a rich flavor, which lingers in the mouth.
For a kick — and a sizable one at that — try the Spicy Miso Ramen ($9) or the Veggie Spicy Miso Ramen ($9.49), made from kelp broth with fried tofu and other toppings. The broths are served with tasty, chewy noodles, provided by the Sun Noodle Co., and you can order extra noodles for $2 — something we recommend to split between two diners. You can also order extra toppings if, say, you want extra corn or seaweed. Given the modest prices of the entrees, it’s easy to justify the splurge. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and lunch on Friday you can order takeout (best to order online ahead of time). The owners suggest that you order the noodles uncooked and cook them at home for the best results.
There is a side-dish option of Cha-shu Don ($3.49), with shredded pork on rice, and curry rice ($3.49). But to be clear — Pikaichi focuses on its eight varieties of ramen, each with its own subtle, savory flavor. For Pikaichi patrons, eight is enough.
Pikaichi Ramen, 123 Boston Ave., Medford, 781-777-2555, www.pikaichiramen.com.
Stephanie Schorow can be reached at email@example.com.