Boke Bowl

Boke Bowl is a pop-up restaurant in Portland that bills itself as a raving ramen party. They appear just once a month, on the last Monday of the month, for one meal (lunch or dinner) as they take over another restaurant’s space temporarily like a secret private party. I was able to go to a lunch they were having at host restaurant/kitchen space  Oba this past week, and got to experience myself that the food is as delicious as it looks.

Unfortunately since it was lunch, and we had to account for travel time, we had to eat quickly- but the service helped us get in and out quickly. As a side benefit, at this particular lunch 5% of the sales would go to the Mercy Corp fundraiser for Japan… so I felt less greedy about ordering so much.

We started out with steam buns. I had wanted these as soon as I had seen them in the blogosphere- and despite showing them to F, he was still surprised to see these are not the usual round buns you see in Chinese bakeries. Instead, these are a bit like tacos in that they are folded to envelope the filling, but they are thick and doughy and spongy. His steam buns were with grilled eggplant, cucumber, pickled mustard sauce while mine were with char sui pork, cucumber, green onion. After tasting both of these, mine were better- but he liked his buns as the best part of the lunch.

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon

Meanwhile, the salad Boke Bowl offered this month as a salad with warm brussels sprouts, cauliflower, blood orange, house tofu, croutons with Thai vinaigrette. We liked having the crunch texture but wanted a lot more brussels sprouts for it to live up to its “salad” billing.

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon

And finally, the mains. For this month, the seasonal additions to the ramen choices that along with the usual hand made noodles, every dish also had greens, mushrooms, butternut squash and roasted fresh water chestnuts. He tried the ramen in caramelized fennel broth, Japanese eggplant, butternut squash rice cakes. Because of the fennel broth, it was a sweeter broth then you might expect with ramen so he liked it at first but the sweetness started to get to him as he continued in the bowl- he would have preferred something spicier instead, and I agree that after a while that caramelized sweetness gets too cloying. Some of the homemade hot boke sauce probably would have helped here, but it wasn’t mentioned or offered, the only glitch in the service.

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon

Mine was soooo good. Ramen with hand made noodles, greens, mushrooms, butternut squash, roasted fresh water chestnuts, pork and chicken broth, slow smoked pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken.

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon

Just look at it. It tastes even better then it looks.

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon

See that chicken closeup? That chicken was still crunchy as I got towards the bottom as I tried to distribute that chicken taste between everything else. The sauce on top is a pickled mustard that I swirled into my noodles and soup a bit to distribute the kick. The only thing I could ask for is to be able to get this deliciousness more often. I love you Boke Bowl. When can you grow up from pop up restaurant into addictive permanent ramen party place that can make everyone love ramen like it deserves? Because Boke Bowl will make you realize what Tampopo is about. Maybe the broth isn’t as good as Daikokuya’s Tonkotsu, but the entire experience of everything in the bowl made me enjoy it more then any other ramen I’ve had thus far.

It’s not traditional ramen- from the list of components you can see there is a lot going on in that big bowl. And I didn’t even add everything that I could have, including a slow poached egg which sounded so tempting (but my ego told me buttermilk chicken was enough) or pork belly or miso black cod rice cakes. But Boke’s take seems like a natural modern adaption- traditional ramen still has its place, just like a cheeseburger that is just good meat with a fresh bun and a slice of cheese. But, adding bacon and homemade pickles and spicy ketchup and grilled onions and mushrooms and jalepenos and a side of truffle parmesan fries washed down with a local microbrew can be a good additions too.

Boke Bowl can really be the opening move to bring the cult of ramen to Portland, let’s move on to addictive deep soups and fresh noodles… because this is seriously amazing, and Boke has the stuff that is worthy and too easy to enthrall anyone and be food to obsess about. Just looking at the photos, don’t you want to be converted?

Boke Bowl, ramen, Portland Oregon


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