A stone’s throw from South Station, in the bustling Leather District, is Boston’s newest addition to the ramen scene. Even in its slightly subterranean space, Amateras Ramen is cheery. The street-facing wall is all windows. The rest are pumpkin orange, with playful black and white stripes, with framed photos of the noodle soup. Friendly servers zip around the small dining room in hachimaki, stylish Japanese bandanas that symbolize endurance, courage, and pride in one’s work. It’s fitting garb for a spot serving up some of the best bowls of noodles in town.
The menu is short and sweet: soup, a couple of cold appetizers, and a few mini rice bowls. What’s surprising is Amateras serves several styles of ramen — rather than specializing in one — and does each of them justice.
We start with Yokohama Tonkotsu ($12.50), after seeing the rich, porky ramen is served in limited quantities. The noodles are springy, the egg yolk is just set and jammy, and the toasted nori has a pleasant nutty flavor that sets it apart from any we’ve had. The chashu pork topping is less fatty than at other places we’ve tried, but grilled slices of loin are particularly tender. Most importantly, the golden broth is deeply savory and leaves you sticky-lipped from the porcine fat, as any good tonkotsu should. Here the soup base is made with both pork bones and clams.
The seafood-meets-meat theme is a recurring one. Nagoya Maze “Mix” Soba ($13.50) is a unique, brothless ramen. Instead, the noodles are served with garlicky ground pork that’s mixed with dehydrated flakes of albacore tuna. You stir in pasteurized, uncooked egg yolk to make a rich kind of gravy, one that’s balanced by thinly sliced scallion, nori, and slightly bitter greens. When you’ve almost finished your meal, a server will bring you a spoon full of rice to soak up any last bits of sauce in the bowl.
On the other end of the spectrum is light, clear Tanrei Shio ($12.50). This “salt ramen” topped with tender slices of white meat chicken, bamboo, egg, and scallions is restorative; the perfect bowl for when you’re under the weather.
There are all kinds of toppings you can customize your bowl with ($1-$1.50): corn, butter, bamboo, cabbage, seaweed, sprouts, scallions, or greens. You can also add extra meat ($4), egg ($1), or noodles and broth ($2). If you’re still hungry, try the satisfying chashu don ($4), a small bowl of rice topped with the grilled pork, scallions, and pickles. And the cold dishes ($3.50) like Kewpie broccoli topped with the Japanese mayo, sesame seeds, soy, and pakchee salad; a beansprout and cilantro salad, dressed with a bright sesame-lime dressing. Wash it all down with a cold-brew iced matcha green tea. It’s whisked together in the kitchen right before serving. ($3)
On each visit the staff — particularly server Noriaki Mitsuoka — is friendly and knowledgeable and the food thoughtfully prepared and presented. The owner and head chef, Daisuke Shimizu (this is his first restaurant) is serious about customer service. So much so, that Mitsuoka expresses his hesitation about having this column run in the first place. They worry, if the number of customers increases dramatically, will they be able to maintain their exacting standards of quality? It’s a challenge they’ll have to face head on, as downtown customers are already spreading the word. Ready or not, build a bowl of ramen this good and they will come.
112 South St., Boston
All major credit cards accepted. Not wheelchair accessible.
Prices Appetizers $1.70-$5, ramen $12.50-$15.50
Hours Monday-Saturday lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 4:30-8 p.m., closed Sunday
What to order Kewpie broccoli, Yokohama Tonkotsu, Nagoya Maze “Mix” Soba, Tanrei Shio
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.