I first discovered Boomers when one of the guys at my gym told me about this unholy wrap that was basically chicken caesar stuffed with french fries. For under $9, I got a bottle of coke and a wrap the size of my arm of such concentrated heart-stopping evil and deliciousness that I don't think it will be matched for a long time. On the back of that first experience, I vowed to go back for more. And I have. Wraps, burgers, subs, I've probably gotten so much off their menu that I must have that sumbitch memorized by now.
Now I could do my usual deal. Wax poetic about the food, atmosphere, whatever. But I feel like in this case all I have to say is that my survival in college is due solely to Boomer's, that they have awesome food in plentiful amounts for a good price, and that since they're a shady joint next to a laundromat in middle-of-nowhere Worcester, not nearly enough people ever get around to eating there. And that's a fucking shame.
Lately there's been a lot of buzz going around Boston about Guchi's Midnight Ramen. For those not in the know, it's a future restaurant of some sort specializing in late-night ramen. Only it's not open yet. For now, they're keeping themselves busy taunting the unruly masses with small amounts of tickets to limited-time "guest appearances" at other restaurants at midnight. Yes, that's right. A restaurant so meta they don't have an actual restaurant. Anyway... After deciding that we couldn't be arsed to camp the eventbrite website for the tickets, a bunch of friends and I decided to visit another local joint that was also offering late-night ramen, without the crazy tickets-for-admission system.
Uni Sashimi Bar is an extension of Clio, an up-scale restaurant in the Eliot Hotel. It's located in a pseudo-basement alcove of sorts, accessible only by going through Clio. Given the nature (and, of course, the price point) of Clio, most of the people there tend to be dressed nicely--you know, collared shirts and all that. The stark difference between their dress and our motley crew of hoodies and sneakers was apparent as soon as we stepped into Clio. So it was understandable, I suppose, that the staff immediately pegged us for the "late night ramen" crowd... But a small part of me still wanted to snap at the staff that we would be dining at Clio, rack up a huge bill, and leave a penny tip.
We arrived right around opening time, at 11 PM. After about half an hour, we were seated at the bar. Contrary to the vibe that Clio was going for upstairs, Uni tried very hard to evoke a casual, almost "underground" feel. Everything from the oil-stained cardboard menu to the rap music was made to give the impression of a laid-back "ramen joint" that Boston has been sorely needing for a while now.
The first thing that jumped out at me about the menu (aside from its cardboard-and-sharpie nature, I mean) was the prices. $10 for a bowl of ramen was a bit on the high side, but still reasonable, I suppose. $8 for a bun though, was pretty steep. My first thought was that at $8, it'd better either be a pretty fucking big bun.
I ended up going with the duck bun, as I'd already had pork buns up the wazoo previously and I wanted to try something new. It came out on a plate covered by a wet cloth napkin whose purpose I was not clear on. Perhaps there are some extremely messy eaters around, but the buns weren't remotely greasy or hand-dirtying. All the napkin did was lend an air of pretense to the bun, which unfortunately was quite average size. The inside of the bun contained a disappointingly small amount of duck, accompanied by a bit of crispy fried yuba and the standard cucumbers and pickled radishes. The entire thing taken together ended up being a bit too dry; more sauce, perhaps hoisin, or even just a greater amount of duck for the fat and juice, would have done it wonders.
This was followed by a bowl of the Traditional Ramen. Though it isn't mentioned in the menu, there was a good bit of chili in with the pork, which lent a nice punch to the whole thing, especially when mixed with the broth. The broth also had a good amount of body from a taste that I found familiar but couldn't really peg until I googled "uni late night ramen" and found out that it was a hunk of parmesan. While untraditional, it was still quite delicious and something that I will definitely have to play with myself in the future. Unfortunately the bowl was quite small--especially for $10. The amount of noodles and broth included amounted to barely a few mouthfuls, and to be honest I felt a bit cheated. If I'd known about the portion size, I would have ordered two bowls ahead of time. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm prone to some pretty big fat-attacks, so I guess it's possible this portioning is appropriate for your average midnight Joe, even though I've definitely seen bigger for cheaper.)
On the bright side, the ramen came with an onsen egg--an egg that is slow poached in its shell at something around 160, 170F for an extended period of time to simulate cooking an egg in a Japanese hot spring. The result is softer and more velvety than a traditional poached egg, and eating it here made me wish again that I had the equipment to make this reliably.
Unfortunately it all went to hell with dessert. The ice cream sandwiches were like macarons--tiny, highly priced, slightly pretentious. However, when it came to taste, these did not compare. The cookies were hard enough to decapitate someone with, and the result was that the entire thing was incredibly hard to eat. Trying to bite through the cookie properly only resulted in the ice cream squishing out and getting everywhere. I guess that teaches me not to get dessert at a ramen bar.
Don't get me wrong. I liked the food at Uni. The problem I have with them is they can't seem to decide what they want to be. The decor and general atmosphere are definitely pushing the casual-ramen-joint-people-visit-after-work--the cheap, delicious place that people can visit at late hours after a hard day. And I admit when I was attacking my ice cream cookie with Puff Daddy in the background, I almost bought it. But that illusion was shattered when the bill came, roughly $50 for 2 buns, 2 bowls of ramen, and 2 small cookies. Granted that includes tips and taxes, but we did not have anything to drink at all--I imagine the people who like sake will end up paying much more than that. I liked Uni's food, but I probably won't go with any sort of regularity until they stop it with the pretentious desserts and the bad price/value ratio, especially on the buns--I don't want to be That Guy, but even Momofuku Noodle Bar has similarly sized buns for $6 a pop, and they're in fucking New York.