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HHS Press

Hopkinton High School's Student News Site

HHS Press

Hopkinton High School's Student News Site

HHS Press

Red White and Boneless: Newbury Street’s Vegan Take on Authentic Japanese Ramen

The spicy and savory Red Hot Miso ramen, topped with corn, onion, arugula, sprouts, red pepper flakes, black sesame seeds, and garlic oil.

If you are one to enjoy bold flavors and an upbeat, fast-paced dining experience, be sure to stop by Boston’s Red White Boneless Ramen, where classic Japanese ingredients take on a vegan twist.

In a city with so many quality Japanese restaurants specializing in pork, chicken, and beef ramen, I know what you may be thinking: Why vegan? I get it. Even as someone who has been vegan for three years, I caught myself thinking the same thing at first. Vegan food is often a hit or a miss, and I was nervous to bring my non-vegan family along for this adventure.

After reading hundreds of 4- and 5-star reviews and learning a bit about the inspiration behind the restaurant, my curiosity got the better of me. Ramen Chef Kei, owner of Red White, trained in Japan for over 15 years in cooking with authentic Japanese flavors before deciding to share his food with the world. He opened Red White in two locations: Los Angeles, California, and, luckily for us, Boston, Massachusetts.

This past Saturday, my parents and my older sister, Nadia, joined me on the 50-minute drive to Boston. We parked at Copley Square and walked for ten minutes to Newbury Street, where we hoped a tasty lunch would await us. As we made our way through the bustling crowds of one of Boston’s most popular streets, known for its aesthetic cafes and pricey retail stores, we noticed a line outside the door to a certain restaurant, trailing up the stairs and onto the sidewalk. Approaching closer, our hearts dropped as we realized that this restaurant was Red White.

Now, I’ll be honest. For a moment, we did consider turning back and finding another place to eat. We were hungry, it was cold and windy out, and we had no idea whether or not the wait would be worth it! Fortunately, it was at this moment that a group of people exited the restaurant, and the first group in line entered. And so, the line shuffled forward. It went on like this for about 15 long minutes, until at last we were down the stairs and into the warmth of the building.

Immediately, we were hit with the aromas of miso and soy, and the cozy scent of campfire-like smoke. I was surprised to see that the restaurant was on the smaller side, this feeling amplified by walls painted black and dark floor tiles. The only light for the dining area was provided by warm-tinted bulbs strung along the ceiling. There were about ten tables, some fit for individuals, and others with no more than four chairs.

Upon entry, we learned that we would need to order and pay before sitting down. We were asked by the young man at the front counter to wait for a few minutes before we ordered. While we waited, he put together finished orders and placed them on trays for groups to take to their tables. It was during this time that we looked over the menu and stared in awe at each finished order in front of us, beautifully crafted bowls of ramen with glistening broths and colorful toppings, drawing swirls of steam into the air.

Over the top of certain bowls, he placed a glass dome, which was connected by a tube to a dish of wooden flakes. We watched as he burned the wooden flakes with a lighter, producing smoke that traveled through the tube and into the enclosed dome, where it infused the ramen with a smoky flavor for a few minutes, until the customer would uncover their bowl to eat.

We scanned over the menu one last time, which included three appetizers and seven ramens, each ramen having a “Regular” version for a base price of $15.95 and a “Signature” version for one dollar extra. Sticking to the basics, we decided to order the “Regular” for each of us, later learning that the smoke-filled dome was only part of the “Signature” version.

In order to try a variety of ramens, each of us got something different: I chose the Ginger Curry ramen, my mom the Original Miso ramen, my dad the Yuzu Sesame ramen, and my sister, a lover of spicy food, went for the Red Hot Miso ramen. As someone who eats tofu from time to time, I decided to keep the vegan soboro (a soy-based meat and tofu) in my ramen bowl, while Nadia and my parents asked for their order without it. Out of pure curiosity, Nadia and I also ordered one Mac & Truffle appetizer, a vegan mac and cheese topped with crispy truffle and onions, for $6.80.

With our food ordered and a pager in hand, we sat down at an open table for four, separated from the kitchen area by only the clear screen next to us. From hot noodles and ladles of steaming broth to scoops of toppings and garnishes of greens, I watched as each bowl of ramen was efficiently and meticulously assembled by a group of level-headed chefs in black aprons.

While waiting for our food, we were transported back in time by the early 2000s pop songs playing loudly on the speakers around us. Although it was a fun choice of music, I must add that it made it harder for us to hear one another. Finally, the pager rang after about 10 minutes, and I quickly joined my dad as he got up to get our order. After the young man at the counter explained to us which bowl was which, I slowly picked up the heavy tray with my and Nadia’s ramen bowls on it and ever so carefully brought it over to our table, taking extra care not to spill or drop anything.

Thankfully, I was able to snap a few photos of our food before we started eating. As the critic of the group, I had the privilege of trying a bite of everyone’s ramen, and, I have to say, that the Ginger Curry ramen was my favorite. Thick and flavorful, the broth was carried by warming curry spices, like cumin, coriander, and turmeric, while the powerful ginger gave the dish a subtle sweetness, tang, and spice that lasted throughout the whole meal. The soboro was soft, savory, and well-seasoned, and would appeal even to those who don’t normally enjoy eating tofu. The broth, combined with a wide variety of textures, from chewy noodles and soboro, to the fibrous corn, arugula and alfalfa sprouts, to the crispy onions and sesame seeds, kept me coming back for more.

Nadia’s Red Hot Miso ramen came in at second place. It had similar toppings to Ginger Curry ramen, but with the addition of crushed red pepper flakes, black sesame seeds, and garlic oil. Although I cannot speak on the experience of eating more than just a small spoon of it, I appreciated how the broth was packed with heat and flavor, while not being overpowered by the red pepper flakes.

“The spice definitely builds over time, but I don’t think it’s too spicy,” Nadia said.

I also enjoyed my dad’s Yuzu Sesame ramen, the broth infused with the subtle flavor and scent of yuzu, an East Asian citrus fruit tasting of a mix of lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit.

“This one is a bit more sour,” my dad said when he first tried his ramen, comparing it to my mom’s Original Miso ramen.

Unfortunately, my mom was not the biggest fan of her ramen, and I had to agree with her; while I did like the addition of crushed black pepper, the miso broth just did not carry the burst of flavor we had hoped for.

“I think it’s a bit bland. Sophia’s is definitely my favorite,” she said. (Don’t worry, I offered to share my ramen with her!)

While we enjoyed our ramen for the most part, a critique that all four of us shared was that the noodles themselves were very hot, while each of our broths were just barely warm, so it took some time before we were able to enjoy our food at a consistent temperature.

The last item we tried was the Truffle & Mac appetizer, which again demonstrated Red White’s expertise in creating a variety of textures in their dishes. Forming a nice contrast to the chewy macaroni noodles was the vegan cheese sauce, which was smooth and creamy. The crispy fried onions and shaved truffle topping served as a crunchy element that reminded me of the breadcrumb layer on traditional baked mac and cheese, and made the dish more fun to eat. Despite having a good flavor overall, the sauce had a slightly strange aftertaste that I have similarly found in other vegan mac and cheese dishes that I have tried in the past, although it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what it tasted like.

Even though we all arrived hungry, with the large portion sizes, not a single one of us could finish our ramen! After spending a few minutes looking around, there did not seem to be a clear way to take food to go, and with the chaos of groups ordering and getting their food at the front counter and no servers circling the dining area, we could not find somebody available to ask. I had really hoped I would be able to take home the substantial amount of ramen I had left over, but unfortunately we had to throw away our uneaten food. We placed our bowls, trays, and utensils on a shelf next to the main entrance, and, feeling warm and full, exited into the cold November afternoon as another hungry group entered the restaurant.

To Red White Boneless Ramen, I’ll say this: I admit that I had my doubts, but your artful presentation and your dedication to authentic Japanese flavors impressed me. I’ll be back again soon to try your smoky “Signature” ramen. (This time, with earmuffs for the line outside and a tupperware container for my leftovers!) To my vegans and non-vegans alike: come with a big appetite and an open mind, and be adventurous with what you order, for this innovative, plant-powered ramen restaurant may well surprise you.

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