On Portland's far west flank, in an upscale Beaverton-like strip mall, the crowds descend nightly to slurp the noodle soup offered in multitudinous variations based on pork, chicken or seaweed broth.

This is an outpost of a Japanese chain with a handful of U.S. outlets, all in the Pacific Northwest, and everything about the place, from the picture-filled menu to the cadre of young servers to the tiny waiting area that often spills outside and the "we'll text you when your table is ready" and "we'll be happy to seat you when your whole party has arrived" patois seems slick and calculated.

But the ramen broths, especially the "rich" ones are indeed deep and flavorful, harboring all sorts of treasures beyond the namesake noodles, which tend to be overly soft. A hearty bowl of tonkatsu shio rich ramen ($12) with a soft-cooked egg and pork chashu ($1.50 each) added in is a winner. The lightly tangy yuzu shio ramen ($11) was also a keeper.

For salt-restricted patrons, most of the ramen bowls come in "low sodium" strength though the "traditional" ramen didn't seem overly salty. The izakaya menu, primarily populated with deep-fried Japanese bar snacks, is skippable.


Pro tip: Don't plan on lingering once the soup is gone. Our check magically appeared without even the perfunctory "no rush, pay whenever you're ready" platitude.

GO: 11830 NW Cedar Falls Drive, 844-585-2487, ext. 4, kukai-ramen.com. 11 am-2:30 pm and 5-9 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-9 pm Saturday and Sunday. $-$$.