In our world, any time is carb-loading time, but let’s just say we are building ourselves up for all that spring yard cleanup that’s right around the corner. Luckily, Asian-style noodle and ramen restaurants have proliferated around New England. These brothy soups with hand made noodles are just the thing for a cool early-spring lunch or dinner. We start below with a quick glossary and then offer some places to enjoy noodle soups and other Japanese dishes.
Ramen — quick-cooking noodles, typically served in a broth with meat and vegetables.
Bao buns — A Chinese steamed bread roll with a filling of meat or vegetables.
Pho — Vietnamese soup, typically made from beef stock and spices to which noodles and thinly sliced beef or chicken are added.
Gaku Ramen, 144 Church Street, Burlington, VT — Founded by three East Coast friends with a strong appreciation of Japanese culture and food, Gaku Ramen settled easily into its college-town location in Burlington. The surroundings are Japanese chic yet comfortable, and your meal can be enhanced with sake and craft beer. Check out our Gallery and see for yourself. Wavy noodles, rich ramen broth, highly praised bao. Since this is Vermont, the chefs use local ingredients as much as possible. Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Menu. 802-497-3050.
Anju Noodle Bar, 7 Wallingford Square, Kittery, ME — Anju serves what it calls, “intricate free-style Asian cuisine” in a bright, spare, open dining space, with tables and a counter. Anju serves two kinds of ramen: shoyu and spicy miso. Guests love the pork buns, and there is lots of enthusiasm for the freshness of ingredients, including the vegetables. Some call it the best noodle restaurant in the south coast region. Hours: Daily except Mondays, noon- 9 p.m. 207-703-4298.
Long Grain, 20 Washington Street, Camden, ME — Dishes served here dishes are inspired by many different Asian cuisines: Vietnamese street food, fare served in Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. The restaurant served a spicy kimchi ramen topped with pork belly, tofu, and a local poached egg. This restaurant is popular; get there ahead of meal time or make a reservation. 207-236-9001.
Sakuratani Ramen and Izakaya, 532 Wood Street, Bristol, RI — The East Bay area of Rhode Island, include Bristol, Barrington, and Tiverton, is often overlooked by travelers but this ramen restaurant should help bring more attention. The authentic ramen with hand-made noodles is praised by guests and the takoyaki (fried octopus balls) also garnder big hurrahs. The staff is welcoming and very accommodating. A large selection of sakes complements the menu. Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Menu. 401-396-5036. Map.
OBA Noodle Bar, 69 Water Street, Exeter, NH — At this cozy location you will find a variety of noodle dishes along with small plates like dumplings, gyoza, chive pancakes and more. This is top-quality cuisine, mixing traditional and modern Thai delicacies and Ramen. There is an extensive list of wine, beer, and other drinks. This young restaurant is getting big applause from its first customers. Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Menu. 603-693-6264.
Noodz, 968 Elm Street, Manchester, NH — Clean, bright, modern interior is just the opener for this noodle restaurant with the snappy name. Ramen and wontons get lots of praise, as does the crab Rangoon and General Tao Cauliflower. House fried rise is abundant and filled with good vegetables. This is a great stop for a fast and delicious lunch. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 603-836-5878.
Mecha Noodle Bar in Fairfield, South Norwalk, and New Haven, CT — This restaurant covers the gamut of Asian cooking, with an emphasis on noodles, from Vietnamese Pho to Japanese ramen. It is the comfort food of the Far East. Customers give very high marks to the Korean fried chicken, steamed bao buns, and ramen. Under “Ramen Add-Ons” the menu explains, “Kae-Dama is a system that offers you an extra serving of fresh noodles. When you have almost finished your first, say ‘kae-dama please!’ and your noodles will be out shortly, but be sure to reserve enough broth.” Hours: Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. Locations:
1215 Post Road, Fairfield, CT. 203-292-8222. Fairfield menu.
116 Washington Street, South Norwalk, CT. 203-295-8718. South Norwalk menu.
201 Crown Street, New Haven, CT. 203-691-9671. New Haven menu.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka in Harvard Square, 1 Bow Street, Cambridge — Santouka was founded in 1998 in Asahikawa, Hokkaido as a restaurant with nine seats and a single item on the menu: shio ramen. From there, restaurants were opened throughout eastern Asia and in the U.S. and Canada. The donburi (ramen bowl) of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is described on its website as having a distinctive thick texture and light color from its white pork bone. One customer described the signature ramen soup as having a “deep, porky broth and bouncy noodles.” Menu. 617-945-1460.
Noodles Restaurant, 257 Main St, Northampton, MA — Good news for diners avoiding dairy and wheat: Noodles Restaurant offers three kinds of gluten -ree noodles and most of the menu is dairy free. Noodles offers a variety of traditional Thai noodles soups and specialty selections. Guests love the Thai beef stew noodle soup, curry noodle soup, yum salads, curries, rice bowls or vegetarian dishes. sweet potato fries are another favorite of guests who make this a go-to place for a filling meal at a reasonable price. Hours: daily, noon-10 p.m. Menu. 413-587-4070.