Boom Noodle would make an excellent cafeteria for an upscale space station. Lightbulbs hang in marshaled rows, not too glaring, like just-pretty-good ideas; diners sit at long tables in curved, ergonomic Eames-alike chairs. The supersleek aesthetic, while nothing new, is nicely accented with green walls and panels of wood—a reminder of the existence, somewhere distant, of trees. Late night on Friday, a ping-pong table in the lounge provides recreation for Boom's visitors while they have snacks and drinks prior to returning to their sleep pods. The staff, efficient but not robotic, are in on the joke: A recent phone call with a somewhat esoteric question elicited the response, "Let me ask the higher beings."
The bar at Boom Noodle has those iconic chrome basket-weave seats, a suspended row of illuminated liquor bottles, and a flat-screen TV for bored canteen-goers. An interior door that's sometimes ajar is like a portal to the past, when items still required storage and humans communicated via dry-erase pen. The whiteboard on the inside of the door recently read "BOOM BARTENDERS ROCK!"
Whether Boom's noodles rock has been a source of contention since it opened at the year's outset. (The owners also run Blue C Sushi: three branches of highly stylized, middling-quality, and low-priced conveyor-belt sushi.) The consensus seems to be that Boom's small plates are the best of its offerings, while some maintain that the prices are too high across the board. It's true: Ten dollars seems a bit much for a bowl of Tokyo ramen that's just all right—good noodles, braised pork that varies from delicious to dry from bowl to bowl, and salty, unrich chicken-pork broth that's a little reminiscent of "Oriental" Top Ramen. (And it remains true: Samurai Noodle in the ID kicks Boom's ass in the ramen department.) But what if the Tokyo ramen cost $6.95? It does, at happy hour—daily 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to close Friday and Saturday—and at that price, it's much more gratifying. Drinks are less expensive, too, including Sapporo sake bombs for $3.50 ("really big on campus right now," according to a server), and house cocktails like a shiso mojito (spicier, superior, $5.95) and a Bloody Mary made with wasabi and shochu (ditto, with a slow burn instead of a fiery blast).
Boom's small plates make very fine drinking snacks, the kind that Japanese businessmen get before heading home to dinner. Skip the gyoza, which have been seen arriving frozen in bulk and taste like it. The best choices: creamy chilled tofu cubes with Xs of mushroom laid across the top, the riot of flavor/texture known as okonomiyaki, and crispy-sweet ebi prawns ($3–$4.50 at happy hour).
Boom Noodle, 1121 E Pike St, 701-9130.