The Hotspot | Steam Noodle Cafe: Well worth the wait or road trip
Recipe for success: Located right across from the Triplex Cinema in downtown Great Barrington, Steam Noodle Cafe is the long-awaited Ramen/noodle spot to hit the Berkshires.
Open since July, Steam is in a small space. With about a dozen seats inside and some outdoor seating, this place allows for dining in, but is mainly for takeout. It was busy on a Tuesday night, with most diners taking out, happily waiting in the corridor outside of the Barrington House Atrium. Minimally decorated, a tapestry of a steaming bowl of noodles (the restaurant's logo), separates the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. Owner Phornphimon Ezinga, "Jem," and her staff are happy to help you navigate the menu as well, especially if you are new to ordering ramen.
What we can't get enough of: Come for steamed buns and stay for the ramen! There are quite a few pre-ramen options: spring rolls, curry puffs, gyoza dumplings. But I went with a steamed bun filled with roasted pork ($2.50 for small, $3 for big bun). Served in the small steamer basket, it was the perfect pre-ramen snack. I can't wait to try a big bun of the other flavors: sweet red bean, salted egg yolk custard, and chicken and mushroom.
Now, let's get to what you've all been waiting for — the ramen! Even in the heat of mid-September, I had to get ramen. I treated myself to a warm and welcoming bowl of Tonkotsu ramen: chashu (marinated pork) and noodles sitting in a rich and milky tonkotsu broth, topped with scallions, and seaweed ($11.99). You have the option of getting spicy or not, and I suggest going with spicy. For an additional $2, you add a seasoned egg, wontons or additional noodles if you so choose. This ramen is a perfect antidote to the fall weather heading our way.
You can also find larger noodle entrees, such as Khao Soi Gai: egg noodles in Northern Thai chicken curry, with lime, cilantro, chili paste, crispy wonton noodles, and pickle radish. Or Spicy Beef Szechuan Noodle Soup: noodles and thinly sliced beef in beef broth with bean sprouts, bok choy, and scallions. Both dishes reasonably priced at $12.99. Comforting and affordable, I've been waiting for such a spot to come to the Berkshires and it is truly a hotspot. Whether you're road tripping from North Adams and Pittsfield or walking right around the corner, Steam is a destination that's well worth the travel.
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