Sweet Cheeks – Ramen


My radar blipped the moment Boston magazine wrote an article titled The best ramen you’ve ever tasted. The best? That is a bold statement for a town that has only just sprouted a ramen scene. What’s more, you won’t find it at a small cosy ramen establishment like yume wo katare. Instead, it is served at a restaurant that is home to great southern bbq. What are the chances! The only fathomable link between bbq and ramen that I can think of is probably smoked pork belly and char siu. Regardless, if I have to quote Ego from Ratatouille, “Not everyone can make great ramen, but great ramen can come from anywhere!” Before I delve into the details of the ramen, here’s the lead up, wait and all.

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Ramen is served at 9pm, so given the hype it has garnered over the weeks, the Mr. Kiasu in me arrived no later than 7.30pm. Unsurprisingly, we were the first in line. Next, the glutton in me decided to order the pork belly tray while waiting for ramen, even if it meant giving up my prime spot in the queue. The pork belly is just that good! In fact, the ‘snack’ helped keep us warm throughout the wait, so I strongly suggest that you grab a bite before queuing, especially on a long chilly night. The servers did try to keep the wait as painless as possible by offering fleece blankets for the cold and popcorn topped with cayene pepper for the hungry.

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On to the the main event! My overall impression was that the ramen was very well executed, except for the soup and the noodle. (I can already hear the sighs. How can you call a ramen good if its defining ingredients are subpar?) I wouldn’t dismiss the ramen just yet, because it is still quite a feat to be able to balance the right amount of toppings so that they work harmoniously with every bite, albeit a very soft bite. For those of you familiar with Singaporean cuisine, the texture of the noodle resembles ‘mee sua‘ somewhat. Mee sua tastes fine soggy, because the consistency of the broth and the noodle melds into one smooth slurpy goodness anyway. Sweet cheek’s ramen, on the other hand, never quite reached a gooey, nor was it al dente. Imagine eating overcooked angel hair.

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The soup was actually good, with strong porky flavor as well as a rich and thick consistency. Unfortunately, they were a little heavy-handed with the miso paste, which masked out most of the other flavors described in the menu. Also, they offer the option of plain, mild or spicy, but what it really meant was how much dollop of their homemade chile paste you want. The paste tasted like tabasco sauce. I am not surprised given their southern origins, but I am not a fan either. When I order a bowl of ramen, I expect it to be completely savory, no tang, no zest, no bs to try and lighten the broth. If I wanted something light, I would have eaten a plain bowl of wanton soup instead. Nontheless, if you can get past the sour note, you would be rewarded with a really respectable attempt at a japanese classic.

I was informed that starting next monday (03/31/2014), SC will be serving duck ramen instead. If they do fix their noodles by then, I would highly recommend giving it a try. Enjoy!

Sweet Cheeks
1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
(617) 266-1300

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