Ganko Ittetsu Ramen

By Eric Twardzik · 03/11/2019    Brookline · Ramen · $$

The Arcade Building, a 93-year-old enclosed mall in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner, is attracting crowds again. No offense to Heritage Threading Salon or the Louie International watch repair shop, but neither seems to be behind the once-sleepy shopping center’s revival. That credit belongs to Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, the unlikely noodle shop wedged in between.

It sticks out like a sore thumb, thanks to the perpetual crowd seated on benches outside its door. Blame the weekend wait times of 60 minutes or more on its scant size—20 seats—plus its more involved Sapporo style that requires caramelizing the tare (sauce) in a wok with vegetables before it’s added to the base broth.

Six varieties of ramen are served and, aside from chalkboard appetizer specials, that’s the whole menu. This stripped-down selection reflects the shop’s dedication to getting it right. Its miso and soy sauce are produced by a Japanese microbrewery; the firm-but-chewy noodles are custom-made in Japan.

Texture plays a big role in each of the oversized bowls. Where other ramen shops skimp on toppings or relegate them to the add-on portion of the menu, Ganko proudly fills bowls to the brim with corn, sesame seeds, bean sprouts, and more, which ensure each slurp has satisfying crunch. Five of the six ramens come with a perfectly cooked five-minute egg, and bowls like the Gantetsu Shoyu and Shio feature chashu pork two ways: thin-sliced and diced.

The tiny spot leaves little space for decoration, but the two longest walls are covered in murals. One depicts a row of salary men in full slurping mode, faces obscured by upturned bowls. The other is an old-fashioned Japanese street scene. While each work feels transportive, what really does the trick is the piping-hot bowl of noodles set before you.

Garlic hounds take note: $1 procures a side of crunchy fried garlic. Add it to your bowl to kick up flavor and texture.

Before arriving, you can check on Yelp whether or not there’s a wait—and put your name on the list.

Sip on matcha at the Gen Sou En Tea House across the street while waiting for that table-is-ready text. If the wait is particularly long, kill more time by walking 15 minutes to Blossom Bar for a cocktail.

Must Haves

  • It might just be the lightest ramen we’ve ever tasted—but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in flavor. Sea salt gives it a briny tang that’s cut by buttery richness.

  • Ultra-creamy Tan Tan may put us down for the count, but the play between nutty sesame sauce, seasoned ground pork, and spicy garlic oil makes it worth every slurp.

  • Dark, rich, funky—the vegetal Gantetsu Shoyu is a powerhouse of deep flavor. Corn, crunchy garlic, and fermented bean shoots make it just as interesting texture-wise, too.

Fun Fact

Since 1985, The Arcade Building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tastes of Ganko Ittetsu Ramen

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