Cheap Eats 2014: Japanese Food


NEW! Boxer Ramen

1025 SW Stark St., 894-8260, 11 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday and Sunday. Cash only.

The menu hanging from the wall of Micah Camden's Boxer Ramen is only six lines long, but six lines prove sufficient. Of these, the sesame greens appetizer ($4) might be my favorite thing on the menu, with Swiss chard sliced into pencil-width ribbons and sopped in nutty, rich sesame oil and rice-wine vinegar, then topped with shiitake mushrooms, oyster sauce and toasted sesame seeds. And among the three ramen bowls with noodles from Sun Noodle Company (all $10), your first choice should be the vegetarian spicy miso bowl—which lives up to its name—a rich, coconut-intense white curry sauce with strips of fibrous inari sweet tofu. Selectivity is important here, because you can't over-order: If you don't finish your meal, you aren't allowed to box it up and take it home.  MARTIN CIZMAR.

Boke Bowl

1028 SE Water Ave., 719-5698, Lunch Monday-Tuesday, lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday.

Since first popping up a few years ago as an Americanized take on the traditional ramen house—signature miso Twinkie completing the circle with an imagined Eastern interpretation of workaday Westernism. Boke Bowl's chicly utilitarian space has swarmed with devotees assembling personalized variations on the noodle, by adding savory treats like pork belly ($4) or a surprisingly sumptuous poached egg ($2) to rich broths steeped in pulled pork ($10) or caramelized fennel ($9). While the resulting bowls (or less-fungible favorites, such as a salad of Brussels sprouts and house-crafted tofu served warm with tangy Thai vinaigrette, $10) might not appear the cheapest of eats, the impossibly hearty servings should last you more than one meal. JAY HORTON.

Du's Grill

5365 SE Sandy Blvd., 284-1773, Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday.

Sending huge plumes of smoke into the air of Northeast Sandy Boulevard like the most delicious smelting plant in the world, Du's does teriyaki better than perhaps any place in town, serving up charred hunks of chicken, pork and beef in gigantic mounds that could feed an army. Few accoutrements are necessary, but don't skimp on the housemade ginger-garlic sauce that perfectly complements both the meats and the side salad. A two-meat combo will run you a scant $9.25-$9.95, and will live on as leftovers as long as the delicious smell from the charring meats lives in your jacket—which is a while. AP KRYZA.


900 SW Morrison St., 227-5253, Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.

Once a down-at-the-heels Japanese lounge and karaoke gem, the space formerly known as Bush Garden has been transformed into what looks like a combination dojo and romper room (witness the dry waterfall, now bedecked with plush characters from My Neighbor Totoro). But it is fundamentally a stew line. Stand at the counter and pick from three versions—beef, chicken ($6.95) or veggie ($6.45)—of the sweet brown curry Tokyo families eat as regularly as Middle America consumes tuna casserole. The coziness factor is roughly equivalent—which is to say, unparalleled in Portland. AARON MESH.

Miho Izakaya

4057 N Interstate Ave., 719-6152, Dinner daily.

The descriptions on Miho Izakaya's menu might be spare, but don't let that fool you. A $4 item simply called "greens and tofu" turns out to be a generous bowl of braised kale and fried tofu singing with hot chilies, aged miso and sake. Togarashi seared salmon ($8) comes plated atop a bed of arugula and mustard, with carefully sliced avocado and a ribbon of pretty red roe on top. These are beautifully varied dishes at an impressively low price point, ranging from pickled vegetables for $2 to steak for $12, with plenty of options in the middle. Housed inside a cheery yellow bungalow across from the MAX tracks and the Alibi's retina-singing neon, Miho also gains points for its swift service and clever cocktails, which incorporate lots of shochu, citrus and plum. REBECCA JACOBSON.

NEW! Hapa Ramen

Southeast 50th Avenue and Division Street, 560-0393, Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

Hapa is not yet a rival for Shigezo, Biwa or Yuzu, but it warmed me right up with a fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian ramen made with frozen noodles ordered from the islands. The best dish is the shaka bowl ($7.50). In fast-paced Japan, shaka is served in two parts, so diners don't have to wait for their soup's broth to cool before slurping. At Hapa, the noodles come cold, topped with a halved soft-boiled egg and green onions. There's also a dip cup—filled with a substance that's not quite broth, not quite sauce—that's thick, goopy and obscenely rich thanks to pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Each forkful is an uppercut of umami. MARTIN CIZMAR.

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