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Hello fellow Portland hounds,
Mr Taster here, long time Chowhound (circa 2003), formerly of the Los Angeles boards. I've transitioned up to Portland for work 2 weeks ago, and am acclimating to your very different dining climate.
In Los Angeles, I really grew up through Chowhound in many ways. LA has a wealth of riches in terms of the traditional food served at the infinite array of immigrant mom and pop shops of Mexico, central America and Asia. My specialty was the regional cooking represented by the incredible array of restaurants in Chinese San Gabriel Valley. (I learned to speak Chinese, in part, because I wanted to know how to order specific dishes. Oh, and also, my wife is Taiwanese.)
I know that's really not what Portland does (with some notable exceptions, like Rama Thai), and one if the things I've learned is rather than lamenting the things I've lost, to focus on the things I do have. And Portland does have a pretty stunning array of choices.
This is not my first PDX Chowhound post, but it is my first post as a resident. My company is paying for an apartment in the Indigo (Blue Star, Cacao, Lardo, Grassa, Racion building) for 5 weeks, and I've primarily been exploring this area. Haven't been out to the east side at all, yet.
We decided to give Boxer Ramen a shot. LA has become a kind of nexus for high quality ramen, attracting superstars from Japan to do guest stints at food courts of large Japanese supermarkets. So yes, my standards and expectations are set at a pretty high bar.
Sad to say, the ramen itself (tonkotsu shio and shiitake shoyu) were pretty weak overall. Both were served with partially cooked eggs (not soft boiled, mind you, but semi-raw) and the soup was not served hot enough to cook them. The noodles were slightly underdone (again, not al dente, but slightly raw). The tonkotsu did not have the silky, rich texture of a long simmered pork bone broth, but was watery and thin. The shoyo was similarly weak. And the pork belly in my soup was smoked, like bacon. Totally weird. Not bad, just unexpected, and completely untraditional, with no mention of it on the menu. It would be kind of like ordering pancakes and syrup and instead of maple they bring you chocolate syrup. Hey, if thats how you roll as a reataurant, I'm cool with that, and I'm sure it's tasty, but doesn't it at least deserve a mention on the menu description?
The appetizers, however, were spectacular. We ordered the kale, chard, cabbage slaw with walnuts which was a real surprise standout dish. Sweet, sour, crunchy, chewy, and totally satisfying. Also we tried the okinomiyaki tots, which was a brilliant fusion. Tater tots covered with okinomiyaki sauce, mayo and bonito flakes. It worked perfectly... In fact, despite my general preference for traditional dishes, I may actually prefer it to the original!
So, overall, I'll be avoiding the ramen at Boxer Ramen. I'll be back for the apps.
Looking forward to future explorations!