Fans of tiny Cambridge ramen stunner Yume Wo Katare may have been surprised by an August 17 social media post from the restaurant that stated: “Yume Wo Katare ramen/dream shop is now closed. We will return this Thursday as Yume Dough Katare serving our newly created Yume pizza.”
The announcement, which included several photographs of said pizza, excited pizza enthusiasts but threatened to break the hearts of the restaurant’s longtime ramen fanatics, who, pre-COVID, would line up in front of the intimate restaurant in sun, rain, or snow for a taste of the pork-and-garlic-stuffed bowls, after which they would stand up in front of the other customers to share their hopes and dreams. This is literal, not a metaphor; it’s a “dream shop” after all.
Fortunately for the ramen lovers, it’s not a permanent closure: Most nights, Yume Wo Katare will still function as a ramen shop. (During the pandemic, the restaurant is only open for takeout, and the schedule is a little lighter than in normal times, but customers can check for preordering opportunities each day via the Souskasa ticketing platform.)
On other nights, there is pizza — just one type of pizza, made with ramen flour and topped with pork and garlic, just like the ramen.
“Yume philosophy is to do one thing and do it well,” Jake Vo tells Eater. “That’s why we only have one menu item.” Vo is the general manager and head chef for the restaurant; he’s been with the team for about five years now.
Founded by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Porter Square restaurant opened at 1923 Massachusetts Ave. in 2012, focusing on a single bowl of ramen, Jiro-style, with pork and garlic. Once in a while, there are specials available, but the restaurant still centers around this specific bowl of ramen. Five years later, the restaurant spawned a sibling nearby, Yume Ga Arukara, similarly focused entirely on udon.
Following along the Yume philosophy, Vo decided to spend some pandemic time obsessively exploring pizza-making. “I just wanted to make good pizza, so I really had to shut down making ramen just to focus on making good pizza,” he says. “Especially during a pandemic, shutting down regular operations just to make 30 pizzas in a day would be financially irresponsible, but it was worth it for the experience.”
“Yume Wo Katare is not a ramen shop or a pizza shop,” Vo wrote on social media. “It’s a dream workshop. I will continue to stay true to my mission and the concept of what Yume Wo Katare is ... just one huge canvas ... a long-running live creative installation. The ability to wipe that canvas clean and start over as a pizzeria, then wipe it clean again and put back what once was, is absolutely a beautiful thing.”
He is working on perfecting the chashu garlic pizza right now and has been documenting the process on social media, while learning from a pizza master in Japan, Yusuke Huey Kawachi.
The current incarnation of the pizza involves stretching out the dough and cooking it on hot cast-iron — on the stovetop, not in the oven (“because it lets me control the artwork of the final product,” he wrote) — and finishing it off with a blowtorch.
The dough is made fresh every morning and hand-kneaded for 10 minutes, Vo tells Eater, noting that he has been experimenting with purified mountain water and other water sources. “I learned in New York City that their bagels are so good because of the water,” he says. “The next step after finding the perfect dough is to pair the dough texture and taste with the perfect red sauce.” As for cheese, he’s shredding mozzarella and parmesan to order, finding better results that way than by buying pre-shredded or grated cheeses or even grating and shredding before service.
“Making pizza is a lot like making Yume ramen,” he noted on Instagram. “To me the dough is noodle and soup, the sauce is the tare, the cheese is the abura, basil as bean sprouts and cabbage, pork as pork and garlic as delicious garlic. There was a lot of precise timing involved to cook the pizza perfectly just like how to cook ramen noodles properly.”
The pizza will be appearing most weeks, often on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Vo posting a weekly schedule to social media. “The goal is to make a pizza I want to eat over and over again,” Vo tells Eater.
On these pizza nights, Yume Wo Katare fully disappears, becoming Yume Dough Katare, and the pandemic-time offerings of DIY ramen kits and mazesoba are not available. (This week, on ramen nights, Vo is also bringing back ramen for immediate eating — still takeout, but he insists that customers eat it right away, whether on a bench outside or in their car. “I will not provide any means for you to take it home,” he wrote. “In fact I will purposely make it difficult for you to take this home ... Ramen has a very small window of time before it goes bad.”)
As Vo considers the Massachusetts Avenue space to be a “dream workshop,” both Yume Wo Katare and Yume Dough Katare will surely continue to evolve over time. Though the pizza is a work in progress — a transparent process Vo is sharing in detail online — pizza enthusiasts will already find plenty to love in these early weeks.
To stay in the loop about when Yume Wo/Dough Katare is serving ramen and when it’s serving pizza — and it’s always serving dreams — keep an eye on social media and the Souskasa platform.
• Yume Wo Katare Coverage on Eater [EBOS]