Once upon a time in Portland, before a ramenaissance swept the city in 2016, the opening of one noodle joint was a sensation. Today, we have approximately one ramen shop for every cramming college student.
We've reached the stage where Tokyo's top purveyors of pork broth—Afuri, Marukin—are opening second and third locations, while Micah Camden's knockoff Boxer Ramen anchors new apartment projects as reliably as his burgers and doughnuts.
It's now possible for a new ramen spot to fly under the radar, even when it marks a significant departure.
This winter, two ramen counters started ladling bowls of soup that originate from homelands other than Japan. A Korean ramyun shop opened in a stall in the Zipper, while a Hawaiian izakaya shimmers south of Powell Boulevard.
Individually, each is more of a nifty addition than a paradigm shift. But together, they hint at a kaleidoscope of possibilities: a ramen bowl from everywhere, for everyone.
2713 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-841-5149. 11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday.
Typically, the phrase "ramyun" refers in Korea to instant noodles, the peninsular answer to Top Ramen. But chef Tommy Shin's new stall in the Zipper food court specializes in a chicken noodle soup—well, technically chicken and beef broth ($11), with melt-in-your-mouth brisket slices floating on top.
The bird-and-bovine flavor isn't as decadent or complex as the tonkotsu pork broth you get at, say, Marukin, but it's a sturdy stock—I felt a lingering head cold surrender as I sipped it.
This soup, along with a soybean-and-mushroom sibling called "dwen-jang," can be punched up with spice. (The hot version pairs especially well with the Hite lager on tap.) The menu's secret weapon, however, is a bowl of hot wings with a bright-red gochujang glaze—a spicy-sweet chile sauce that reminded me of Pok Pok's fish wings with a little less dockside tang.
This is a heretical opinion, given the proximity of Basilisk, but Sari makes the best chicken in the Zipper.
Hapa PDX Ramen and Whiskey
3848 SE Gladstone St., 503-376-9246, hapapdx.us. 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-9 pm Monday, 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5-10 pm Wednesday-Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday.
Lots of food carts make the leap to brick-and-mortar. But rarely is the effect quite so sexy as it is at Hapa.
On a nondescript corner along the Reed neighborhood boundary, lamplight glows on deep-hued hardwood, and the dining room is enveloped in a delicious steam. "Hapa" is island slang for people of mixed ethnic heritage, and the soup here is a blend of two beloved cuisines: In the "G-Special" ramen ($13), you'll recognize elements of a Hawaiian plate lunch and a Tokyo ramen. But it's all pork—rich and colorful and (to be honest) maybe needing a little less salt.
The veggie miso ramen ($11) comes with a seasoned bean curd on top, sliced into thin sheets and seasoned. It's a combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors that doesn't quite jell with the straightforward miso broth, but it's tasty nonetheless.
As with Sari, the revelations are on the side: A wakame salad ($4) combines seaweed, cucumbers and sesame into a crisp rush, while a salmon poke ($12) recalled a tomato-and-cucumber salad tossed with cured fish.
This is very much an izakaya, and drinks are as much the attraction as the soup. I'd travel across town for another ginger ale-sake highball ($6), and will probably drink too many of them some warm night next summer.