Bosso Ramen Tavern, a Japanese Izakaya, Opens in Harvard Square, Cambridge

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Bosso Ramen Tavern, a Japanese restaurant inspired by the ocean, has been quietly testing the waters in Harvard Square (24 Holyoke Street, Cambridge) this month, with a grand opening planned for March 26, 2022.

Although ramen is highlighted in the restaurant’s name, Bosso isn’t a casual ramen shop; it’s a full-service izakaya meant for dates and gatherings, says owner Yasu Sasago, with an extensive menu of options beyond ramen.

He recommends that diners start by sharing tsumami (appetizers) with the table; options on the opening menu include ume fried gyoza, squid isobe tempura, edamame shiromiso hummus, scallop carpaccio, and more.

Next up, there are “blessings of the ocean,” Sasago says, with a variety of sushi options and other sakana (fish) dishes, such as kikumasamune steamed clams. (There are a few vegan sushi selections, too.) “We are playful with ingredients,” Sasago says of the restaurant’s sushi. “We invented new sushi that never existed,” such as one that features takoyaki balls on top.

After appetizers, sushi and seafood dishes, and entrees (okazu) such as a blue cheese pork cutlet, “our authentic ramen would be the best choice to close,” says Sasago, with several types available, including the sanmi, meaning sour, which includes cherry tomatoes, charshu pork, arugula, cheese, and green shiso oil.

Yuzu hotate scallop sushi at Bosso Ramen Tavern.
Bosso Ramen Tavern

The base for Bosso’s main ramen lineup is a tonkotsu pork broth made with chicken bones “to double down [on] umami essence,” says Sasago. “Pork and chicken have different types of amino acids that create an extraordinary level of umami when combined. It’s called ‘double soup’ in Japan.” Most Boston-area ramen shops use either tonkotsu pork or chicken, not both, he notes.

“We are very unique in creating a new style of ramen while keeping authenticity,” says Sasago, so some of the dishes deviate from that main broth. The aforementioned sanmi, for example, combines the tonkotsu and chicken broth with tomato broth, while the mantaiko ramen doesn’t have any broth and is tossed with cod roe. The negitoro ramen features ground tuna. “You will be able to eat ramen you have not seen anywhere,” says Sasago.

“Our food menu is built for customers to sit back, relax, and enjoy with drinks, izakaya-style,” he says. As such, there’s sake and wine available. “Many of our brewers make sake by the sea,” says Sasago. “Their sake has been drunk by local people living by the sea. As a result, our sake pairs tremendously well with fresh fish.”

Bosso’s menu is “deeply inspired by the ocean in Japan,” Sasago says, with the name referring to the country’s Boso region, where he spent much of his childhood — and much time surfing. “It is surrounded by mountains and the ocean,” he says, with fresh seafood and vegetables prevalent in the regional cuisine.

“I was aiming to be a professional surfer in the past, so I traveled around the world to explore exotic waves and participate in local surf competitions,” says Sasago. With those travels came immersion in local food cultures, which led to his passion for bringing “regional authentic food” international, he says.

With that in the background, Sasago found himself cooking ramen, one of his favorite Japanese foods, for friends in his dorm while attending Harvard Business School. He was no stranger to cooking, having worked in restaurants in Japan to earn money for his surf trips.

“My ramen created a buzz in our school,” he says. “When I cooked ramen in the shared kitchen in my dorm, everyone who had never eaten authentic ramen noticed the smell and stopped by.” The look of surprise on people’s faces as they tried their first sip of the broth convinced Sasago of his potential in the world of ramen, so he soon returned to Japan to train at a renowned ramen school. Later, he honed his skills at the acclaimed Yume Wo Katare back in Cambridge, volunteering at the restaurant after his business school classes (and not getting much sleep in the process). “By that time, I already knew running an authentic Japanese ramen restaurant was my passion.”

Harvard Square and the surrounding area is already home to quite a few restaurants that feature ramen, but Sasago is confident his team is bringing something new to the table. Inspired by the nature of the Boso region, “we exist for our customers to feel the blessings of nature and feel the joy to thrive on this beautiful planet,” says Sasago. “We want our customers to … feel as if they had traveled to a town by the sea in Japan.”

Bosso Ramen Tavern will celebrate its grand opening on March 26 and will be open six days a week (closed Tuesdays) from 5 to 9 p.m. to start.

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