Going into a week of the hottest weather on record for Portland and I am out looking for a steamy bowl of ramen. Not sure what I am thinking, but I have to continue the quest. The perfect bowl of ramen is out there for me, I just have to find it.
Today I am off to the Central Eastside district to a place I have walked by a dozen times and have just never stopped in to try it out, Boke Bowl. Patrick Fleming's first brick and mortar restaurant after a successful string of pop-ups that led to this little gem. Boke Bowl is an unassuming storefront on Water Ave. just across the street from Clark Lewis. The Central Eastside district was not much only a handful of years ago, but as Portland does, it is becoming another 'cool' district to be in. With curious retail shops, eclectic coffee shops, a couple of brew pubs, a distillery, night market and whole host of places to occupy your time and attention, the Central Eastside is where it's at.
From the moment you walk in the front dooor, your experience shifts. Passing through heavy glass doors the noise and the bustle of Water Ave. slip away and you are greeted by a lively staff and a direct view of where the magic happens, an open slim kitchen with pots simmering away and a small staff bustling to bring steamy bowls of handmade noodles and lucious broth to life. A cook in the back kitchen shucking fresh corn. A large, open high-ceilinged dining room with communal tables. The ambiance is perfect for an afternoon bowl to slurp and get a little work done outside of the office.
Boke Bowl is known for it's rotating menu and seasonal offerings with unique flavor combinations and creative dishes. The menu on the wall was enticing as I looked at steamed buns, house made kimchi and other pickled vegetables, oh, and another tater tot offering, this time made from rice. While I was immensely intrigued, I was flying solo today, there just wasn't enough belly room for ramen and all the other goodies. I guess I will just have to come back for more...
I'm here for the ramen.
And to be fair in my judgeing criteria, I stick with the pork 🍜
Taking my number I find a a corner table to set-up my little afternoon office (iPad and phone), place my wooden number placard in the slot in the center of the table and wait patiently for my bowl of noodles to arrive. It's just after the lunch hour, the dining room is lightly populated with a large family in one corner, a busy lady pounding away on her keyboard at the long table and what looks to be a lunch meeting just beginning to break up.
A steaming bowl of deliciousness. Deep tea colored broth with fragrances of meaty goodness, seaweed and spices. A montage of noodles, pulled pork and corn all heaped into this cavernous bowl garnished with greens, green onions and chiffonaded nori. I can't wait to slurp away. Ramen is one of the only meals I can think of where slurping at the dinner table is acceptable.
There are two things that I grade my ramen by, broth and noodles. The broth needs to be deep and complex with a rich meatyness that gives it a dense mouthfeel. Not to salty. Flavorful yet not overpowering to taste all of the other individual accroutements. The noodles need to be plentiful, long and twisted. Cooked perfectly so that you feel them slightly against your teeth as you bite into them.
The broth is first to be tasted.
All at once I'm bombarded by the deep rich flavors of bones that have been simmered for hours, and the fragrances of seaweed fill my nostrils.
It's good. Real good.
The broth coats the inside of my mouth and it's wraps by taste buds like a soft fleece blanket.
This is good. Real good.
Now the noodles. Grabbing a bunch with my chopsticks I raise them up as they dangle into the lucious broth, not seeing an end to their twisted length. The noodles are soft, but toothsome, just the right texture as they continue to cook in the hot broth.
This bowl gets better with every bite. Have I found my ramen place? Is my quest over?
Lets try the pork. Shreds of tender pork disintegrate as I begin to lift them with my chopsticks. The corn crisp and hot. Shreds of bamboo add to the mix.
This is a good bowl of ramen. Almost a great bowl of ramen. It gets 🍜 🍜 🍜 🍜 out of 5 bowls.
I finished it. All of it!