By Mimi DelGizzi
“Are you hungry?” asks a sign in the window, almost mockingly. The flow diagram continues to “No,” at which point another suggests that you “Come back another time” or “Yes,” and lists the two-item menu. “Ramen” and “Buta Ramen” are the only options. Hungry customers wait in a line that spans a few storefronts and lasts anywhere from fifteen minutes to over an hour. All this waiting is for bigger-than-your-face bowls of ramen noodle soup at a new joint on Mass Ave in Cambridge called Yume Wo Katare.
Open from Tuesdays through Saturdays, and only during evening hours, Yume Wo Katare attracts all sorts of customers. Couples huddle together, friends congregate in groups, and single ramen-seekers all stare through the front window of YWK at steaming bowls of jiro ramen waiting to be slurped up by hungry mouths.
Both the ramen and the buta ramen are in this jiro ramen style, an ostentatiously gluttonous form of the soup according to a review by The Phoenix. (Who knew there existed so many ramen styles, right?) The ramen and the buta ramen options are identical steaming bowls of deliciously-flavored pork broth and heaps of wheat soba noodles, except that the ramen is topped with two slices of fatty pork while the buta ramen boasts five.
This 14-seat ramen eatery (ramenery?) is easy to miss. It’s also tight on space. One big table is fitted in the middle of the tiny place while bar stools flank the open kitchen. This “open kitchen” is merely a counter holding the big vats of broth and noodles. YMK boasts that it serves bigger bowls of ramen than anywhere else (in fact, if you’d like fewer noodles, you should indicate that to the cashier before being seated). Half-finished bowls of brown oily broth dot the table, and it’s not hard to understand why. As delicious as the soup is, there is just so much of it that it’s hard to finish what ends up feeling like two pounds of noodles and a gallon of broth in your stomach by the end. Because of this, I found it difficult to justify spending $12 on a bowl of soup I was not going to be able to finish—that’s for the “two-piece” ramen, which comes with 2 pieces of fatty pork. For the five-piece, prepare to fork over $15. This would not be a problem if a) I could take leftovers home with me, or b) I could share my bowl among two, three, eight friends. Unfortunately, there are rules about these two things at YWK, namely that these practices are not allowed. “No sharing” and “No take-home” are also written on the window signs.
There are other certain rules at Yume Wo Katare. Some are specified. Others are not. For your convenience, I’ve listed some here:
1. Bring cash and come hungry.
2. No, really, don’t eat for a few days before coming here. Portions are that big. (however, see #3)
3. Don’t come so hungry that you might be tempted to eat other, potentially inedible things while you wait because you will be waiting for a while. A friend and I arrived on a Tuesday at 6pm and didn’t get seated until almost 7 (this was after one failed attempt to go the Tuesday before and just not being able to stand the frigid temperatures outside long enough).
4. No cell phones or books or other things that might result in your “sitting around” are allowed.
5. Once you’re finished with your soup, you are to leave (see #6).
6. Do not put down your soup spoon for more than a few seconds lest the host takes that to mean you are finished, at which point he will reach for your bowl and tell you to leave, slipping in the subtle guilt-trip of “There are other people waiting to sit.”
7. Order extra garlic.
8. Don’t be put off by the quarter inch layer of translucent fat floating on the top of your soup broth. Honestly, how many times are you really going to wait in an hour-long line for ramen? Enjoy it. Moderation.
9. Be ok with communal eating.
10. Come with a friend, or a loved one, or someone you found on the street because it’s actually more awkward than people think to sit at a communal table in a tiny space slurping mega-amounts of soup.
Yume Wo Katare is a great “try-it-once” kind of place, particularly if you enjoy being herded in and out like cattle with the rest of the hungry Cantabrigian crowd. The place is a bit pricey for ultimately what it is: ramen noodle soup. The soup is delicious and the bowls are huge, but I’d rather pay a bit less for an amount of soup I can actually finish. And I don’t like to be ushered out of a restaurant as soon as I look like I could potentially, possibly, maybe be finished. I can pay $12 for a bowl of soup elsewhere, and be able to eat it in peace, for as long as I want to, reading a book. Can soup really be worth the waiting outside in freezing weather? Sometimes, yes. In this case, though, I just don’t think so. Maybe wait until the summer.
Yume Wo Katare
1923 Mass Ave.
Porter Square T
Michelina (Mimi) DelGizzi is a first-year dual-degree MS/MPH student who rivals her dog in excitement levels. She harnesses this excitement and uses it to teach nutrition classes to older adults in the LGBT community every Thursday in Somerville.