Some years ago a local restaurateur opened the first of three sushi bars which had the gimmick of serving its sushi by conveyor belt. You sat at the sushi bar and waited for the object of your desire roll by, stacking the empty plates as you ate; color-coded plates told your server how much each item cost and how many of them you'd eaten. I had never gone there, because anyone who had told me their sushi was mediocre and I prefer being served by an actual person instead of a conveyor belt. But then I read that they would be opening a Japanese noodle shop just a block away from work and my heart (or perhaps my stomach) gave a great leap for joy.
Weeks, months passed by and still the glass walls of Boom Noodle remained tantalizingly papered over each night I walked by on my way home. The restaurant was on the bottom floor of a new building that housed loft apartments. Over the months I had watched the structure take shape, walls going up, airy lofts sparsely decorated with modern furniture and clean-lined light fixtures. Signs of habitation appeared on the upper floors, but down below all was silent save for a COMING SOON sign on the door. Then one day, the brown paper came down, like the unwrapping of a present, revealing rows of long communal tables in a main dining area, with wire-backed stools along a bar in the lounge and a few small tables by the window. I couldn't wait to try it. Let's go for noodles was my constant refrain, until at last C. gave in and we headed down there after work.
It was cold and wet, a perfect night for noodles, and a server led us to one of the communal tables. The servers all wear dark navy uniforms with a small patch that says boom, white script against green, and they look a little like security guards, which I find unnerving. But our server is friendly, informing us that they just got their liquor license today and the bar is finally open, but bringing us the juice menu when we decline something from the bar. I wind up something called Pike Street Pear while C. orders the yuzu lemonade. My juice arrives in a squat glass, capped with a thick foam, fragrant with pear and ginger and the whisper of vanilla. The lemonade is, well, lemonade. I know that yuzu is a tart Japanese citrus fruit, but I probably wouldn't recognize one if it fell off the tree and hit me on the head.
It is impossible to decide what to order; there are udon and somen and soba noodles of all kinds, soup noodles and stir-fried noodles and a particularly enticing pork chop curry. At last I settle on the Tokyo ramen. C. orders the Shio ramen, and we take our server's recommendation of the okonomiyaki as a side dish. The noodles arrive quickly, steaming in a huge white bowl with an angled rim. This ramen is a far cry from the instant kind that comes in a compressed brick with little packets of salty powders. It has a firm texture and stands up well to the savory broth and the tender slices of braised pork. In the time-honored way of eating noodles, I slurp away quickly (the noodles get soggy if you don't eat them quickly) and am nearly done when the okonomiyaki arrive. These are spicy cakes of pork and cabbage served with finely shredded vegetables and hot peppers; I cool down with the remainder of my broth and sips of my pear juice.
We finish with mochi ice cream - green tea on a pool of blueberry cardamom sauce, vanilla on a shard of chocolate krackel (like a Nestlé crunch bar), and chocolate on a bed of passionfruit crystals. It is all very good, and already I am plotting my next meal here. Soon. I walk home, and reflect on how the walk seems to pass so much more quickly when I am full than when I am hungry.