Ganko Ittetsu Ramen Debuts in Coolidge Corner
Ken Iwaoka might be a little stubborn when it comes to ramen.
The chef, who co-owned the now-closed Osushi in Boston, had put the traditional noodle dish on its opening menu, but eventually removed it from the daily offerings. When Osushi in Back Bay shuttered, Iwaoka joined the team at its Harvard Square location, where he elected to serve ramen only on Wednesdays.
“With ramen, you kind of have to know how to do it,” he said. “It’s totally different operation” from the stir-frys, sashimi, and sushi that populate the rest of the menu.
After helping to open Crudo, a new sushi shop in the North End, earlier this year, Iwaoka had the opportunity to launch his own place in Coolidge Corner. He decided to completely narrow the focus. Ganko Ittetsu—which he translates to “stubbornness” and “iron,” meaning a stubborn chef with a solid idea—opened over the weekend, with just three different noodle soups to choose from.
“If you have many items on the menu, everything has to be decent and good, and you lose concentration on one thing. I’m really focused on making a great soup every day,” he said.
Ganko Ittetsu currently offers one snack, too: palate-cleansing, koji-cured cucumbers. Eventually, Iwaoka plans to add pan-fried pork gyoza. For ramen, there is Sapporo-style miso, shoyu, and spicy, sesame tan tan. The chef plans to add a vegetarian option soon, and maybe a shio broth, too, he said.
“I like street food, simple cuisines, and ramen is part of it,” Iwaoka said.
Sapporo-style ramen differs from other Japanese noodles soups by its traditional wok technique. Typically, tare, the soy sauce, salt, miso, or other aromatic sauce that gives the broth its particular character, is simply mixed with the dashi, the liquid base, before the noodles, vegetables, and meats are added. In Sapporo, chefs caramelize the tare with the vegetables in a wok before adding the dashi. “By cooking in the wok, it maintains a higher temperature and gives it a deeper, more aromatic flavor,” Ganko’s website explains.
The restaurant currently doesn’t offer alcohol, but a beer and wine application is in the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s hands now, Iwaoka said.
Located in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner, Ganko Ittetsu doesn’t have a storefront on Harvard Street, but is instead accessed through the Arcade Building. The tiny space, only about 400 square feet, seats 17. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily. It was approved to stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends, but for now, Iwaoka plans to close at 9 p.m., when the majority of the arcade shops close for the evening.
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, 318 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-730-8100, gankoramen.com.