Snappy Kitchen (Somerville, MA)

(Update: Snappy Kitchen/Ramen closed in late February 2021).

Of all the food trends that have caught on in the last few years, one of the ones I’ve rather enjoyed is the marked increase in Japanese-style Ramen joints, serving up rich bowls of broth with noodles, meats, and various other toppings (note that good Ramen is every bit as much about the broth as the noodles). Indeed, between Porter Square in Cambridge (home of Hokkaido and Yume Wo Katare, both of which sport excellent ramen and long lines) and Davis Square in Somerville, there are a good half dozen ramen shops that cater to slight variations on the Ramen theme. But since our visit was primarily focused on Davis Square (heading to an excellent mixology class at the nearby Boston Shaker) we decided that this would be a great time to check out Snappy Ramen, one of the newer Ramen shops.

Not too long ago, Snappy Ramen was actually “Snappy Sushi”, focusing on fast, low-frills, high-quality simple sushi (indeed, at their previous Highland Ave location, a careful eye could still discern the “Snappy Sushi” branding on the awning). But then they rebranded into Snappy Ramen, changing the primary focus to ramen. And now with the move to Elm, Snappy Kitchen has brought the sushi back to the menu. But otherwise, the overall structure of Snappy is basically the same: it’s a relatively low-frills ramen and sushi joint with a smaller menu, small tables, and fast service designed to cycle people through relatively quickly (a good nod to what a Japanese ramen experience is supposed to be like).

The ramen menu focuses on the tonkatsu style of ramen, with a rich, milky bone-based pork broth that’s noticeably thicker than the shoyu or lighter miso broths available at a lot of other ramen places, and they offer variations such as Sichuan-style tan tan noodles, classic shoyu (in both light and spicy varieties), and even tsukemen, the dipping-style noodle. But Carol and I were mostly craving ramen, so she opted for the Miso and I opted for the Tan Tan noodles, and a side of gobo steamed buns.

The steamed buns were a pleasant opening note to the meal: a nicely executed soft and fluffy steamed bun wrapped around a nicely marinated core of gobo (burdock root) and a tangy wasibo mayo. Gobo always provides a nice carrot-like crunch, and the combination of bun and filling made for a nice appetizer.

My tan tan noodles were the star of my meal, however. This bowl had a bit of everything: a nice, rich, almost stand-your-spoon-up thick tonkatsu broth, with garlic miso, black garlic oil, spicy oil, spicy soy, mustard sweet soy, vinegar, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, baby arugula, pickled veggie, and then finally topped with some pulled pork and shichimi togarashi. This was the nice mix of flavors I always enjoy in a good ramen bowl: tender, toothsome noodles, a delicious milky-thick pork broth, and several layers of spice and garlicky pungeance. I’d definitely come back for these noodles, especially on a cold winter day.

Carol did equally well with her miso ramen, starting with nominally the same tonkatsu broth flavored with a strong miso base, then topped with steamed cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, sweet corn, and poached chicken breast. This same combination gave a pleasant chicken and miso note to the same toothsome noodles, resulting in a softer and less-spicy, but still flavorful bowl of noodles.

Overall, I was really pleased with Snappy. The ramen was excellent, the steamed buns enjoyable, and while the place was extremely busy, the staff was friendly and very efficient, making for short waits and fast service. I’d definitely come back, especially if going someplace around Davis Square.

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