It was back to Cambridge on Saturday to pick up the desk we had ordered a couple of weeks ago, so for our lunch this time we ate at Santouka Ramen. It’s Hokkaido-style ramen, and one of the best ramen places around Boston. My absolute favorite ramen spot is Amateras Ramen, near South Station.
We were able to get a 30-minute parking spot directly in front of the restaurant, which was a small miracle. The place was absolutely jammed, and yet we managed to wait for a table, order, eat lunch, and get back to the car only 10 minutes after the meter expired – and didn’t get a ticket! Yay!
Seriously great ramen. Seriously great. I had the shoyu ramen and my wife had the spicy miso ramen.
We had an errand in Cambridge on Saturday, and Dumpling House, the sister restaurant of Dumpling Cafe in Chinatown, was just down the street, so we stopped for lunch. You can’t go to either place without ordering the Xiao Long Bao, because they have the best soup dumplings anywhere. Especially in the cold weather, a hot soup dumpling will soothe your soul like nothing else.
In addition to the soup dumplings, we had some garlic-and-pepper pickled cucumbers that were an unexpected delight. Big cucumber chunks in a savory, garlicky sauce with just a tinge of heat. I was epxecting something much different, but we really liked these a lot, and will definitely have them the next time we’re there.
Our entrees were also not what we expeected but equally excellent. I ordered what the menu calls “Minced pork with noodles, Northern style”. I expected a hot and spicy dish that I sometimes make at home that has ground pork and uses doubanjiang. Instead, “minced” pork meant small dice, and the sauce was black-bean based, with red bell pepper and what I think was diced zucchini (or maybe more likely some Chinese squash). It was not at all spicy, but very deeply flavored. Bridget ordered cabbage with chilis, which came in kind of a broth and was also not as spicy as we had expected, considering the many bits of dried red chilis in the dish, but was quite tasty. I guess the chilis just needed time to do their work, because when I ate the leftovers a couple of days later, it was much hotter.
This pizza is from Area Four in Cambridge. It is one of my most favorite pizzas anywhere. Area Four makes great pizza all the way around – they do almost everything in-house, and their fermented pizza dough is simply the best. But this particular pizza, which features their own sopressata salami, is just amazing. No other pizza place I know anywhere comes even close to this.
All that being said, Area Four is something of a pain in the ass, as are most of the restaurants that have overpopulated Kendall Square in the last few years. They’re all a little too full of themselves and treat customers like crap. The waitstaff at Area Four always seem disengaged, will bring you the wrong order, spend a lot of time chatting at the bar, etc. I don’t need my ass kissed at a restaurant, but they could make a little more effort. If they didn’t have this incredible pizza, I would have written them off a long time ago. But…you gotta try this pizza.
Starting to dig a little bit into my older photos.
This sandwich is from Sebastian’s Cafe in Kendall Square in Cambridge. I worked in Kendall Square for six years, and on nice days would take the extra time to walk over from my office, usually to get one of these sandwiches. That’s Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola (gabbagool, as Tony Soprano would say), roasted red peppers, and provolone on ciabatta, dressed with a little olive oil. I like a sub as much as the next person, but this is a good, elevated version of an Italian sandwich. Without all the veggies you get on a sub, the meat really has to do all the work. The combo of the three different kinds of meat brings a nice interplay of flavors. The roasted red peppers provide the sweet contrast. I think they could improve this with a little red wine vinegar to add a touch of acidity.
The original Sky Bar was made by Necco (the New England Confectionary Company), one of a number of candymakers based in Cambridge, MA. Necco was at one time the biggest candy company in the country, but eventually went out of business in the 2000s. Some of its brands, most notably the Necco Wafers, went to the Spengler Candy company, but the rights to the Sky Bar went to a woman from Sudbury, MA, who owns a gourmet shop there. She started making them herself, using quality chocolate and fillings (unlike the original, which really wasn’t very good), selling them in her store. She’s subsequently started manufacturing them on a larger scale, and now you can buy them online or in shops (mainly in Massachusetts, but in other locations around the country as well).
My wife and daughter bought one for me a few weeks ago, while they were checking out a new candy shop in our city. I have to say, it’s really very good, even more so when compared to the original, which used cheap ingredients. The fillings are also much improved, while sticking to the original types – chocolate fudge, peanut butter, caramel, and vanilla. Though it will probably appeal mostly to geezers like myself who have some nostalgia for it, I hope people re-discover it and buy enough to keep it in production.