Oisa Ramen Slurp & Go may be a tiny restaurant, but it punches way above its weight-class when it comes time to eat. The little ramen shop, which opened at 2 Broad Street in Downtown Boston this January, seats around 10, deriving its energy from its intimacy. More specifically, it is fueled by the closeness between chef Moe Kuroki, her cooking, and her customers. Kuroki is also the shop’s owner and the creator of all its recipes. She runs the kitchen mostly solo. She talks amiably with the counter-sitters while she cooks, sometimes pausing her movements to reflect on a philosophical matter, and seems to imbue just as much warmth and thought into her chats as she does into her food. The inside of the restaurant is a sunny, pale yellow box, open for lunch on weekdays and for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays. On a recent day, the word “OPEN” had been drawn playfully into the fog on the window. Despite the minimalism, or maybe because of it, the experience could not be homelier.
The restaurant’s smallness also means that Kuroki can apply her artist’s eye to every bowl, and it shows. In the Oisa Tonkotsu ($14), five fragile pork slices are fanned out and adorned by a ribbon of sesame seeds. A tricolor flag of scallions, pickled mustard greens, and bright red pickled ginger perches atop the noodles, and a soft boiled egg serves as a focal point for the composition. The velvety, understated broth provides a backdrop for each taste to take its turn in a moment of epiphany. The thin pork slices are so angelically soft that they might be soufflé rather than meat, while the crunch of the pickled ginger leads to a delightful throat-stinging encounter. At first, these eclectic flavors are confined to their respective ingredients, but the broth becomes spicier over the course of the meal as the other elements saturate it.
None of the richness is lost when Kuroki forgoes the meat and egg. In her vegan Smoky Shoyu ($9) dish, the shiitake mushroom is not the only asset. The vegan noodles, in which tomato powder replaces egg whites, have a wonderfully springy texture. The shiitake mushroom enthroned atop this tasty bowl is a force to be reckoned with. As hearty in texture as any slab of meat, the mushroom cap brings to the meal a surprising, almost spicy intensity. In that way, it’s not unlike Oisa Ramen itself—an unassuming, cute, compact source of culinary power. Ramen without meat is not traditional, so the vivacity of her vegan dish feels like a gesture inviting any diner to feel at home.
The entire menu consists of three ramen types to eat in-house—one pork, one vegetarian, and one vegan—and three Donburi rice bowls for takeout. Everything costs between $9 and $14, and customers can pay more for truffled mushroom, soy egg, pork belly, and other extras.
Curiously, though Oisa Ramen technically shares the 2 Broad Street amenities with its much larger, louder neighbor Tiki Rock, its website lists its location as “1 3/4 Broad Street.” This fraction might merely be meant to guide visitors to the correct door. However, it might also be a reference to “Harry Potter,” aptly suggesting that Oisa Ramen is an easily-overlooked platform that kicks off a magical journey. As the restaurant’s name suggests, it is possible to order, slurp, and leave quickly. However, to not revel in the startling tastes and comforting aura would be a missed opportunity.
MeatIf you expect your kind of vegetarianism to be perfectly represented by one individual’s, you’re bound to end up feeling a little attacked, a little left out. But if your kind of vegetarianism genuinely, validly hurts people and their identities, you’re not doing it right either.
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