Eat Here Now

Review: Boke Bowl

The ramen at Boke Bowl is sensational. But there's a lot more than noodles happening here.

By Karen Brooks January 26, 2012 Published in the February 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

Ramen boke bowl 01 oryipi

Ramen topped with fried chicken at Boke Bowl.

Image: Allison Jones

NOT TOO LONG AGO, Boke Bowl was the quintessential Portland food experiment: a once-a-month pop-up ramen shop, with changing locations, fanatical meat craft, and a laid-back attitude. One year later, chef Patrick Fleming stands in a gleaming alley of stainless steel, diners furiously slurp noodles at handsome communal tables, and swarms of hopeful eaters pour through the door with the force of a Portland windstorm. 

Boke Bowl’s brick-and-mortar experiment embodies the best of Portland’s restaurant scene—a design-savvy, unpretentious, affordable celebration of the art of eating. It’s an impressively fast rise for a pop-up concept. Boke Bowl shows how passion, skill, and social networking can create innovative entrepreneurial directions. Fleming has quickly proven himself the leader of Portland’s budding ramen movement (including new spots like Wafu and Mirakutei), and he’s more concerned with quality and creativity than textbook authenticity. His democratic playbook glimpses the future of dining with artistic noodles, broths, and toppings for carnivores, vegans, and gluten-phobes alike—an impressive feat for a labor-intensive genre of food.

Nothing quite matches the joyful hedonism of Boke’s signature ramen, teeming with pulled pork and fried chicken. But locking in on the porky wonders is to miss Fleming’s alternate universe of eating: addictive grilled eggplant buns, colorful pickles to roll in gingered rice and seaweed sheets, and pears fried to fruit-leather intensity. Indeed, restraint is not the main ingredient in this house, and looking around, regulars appear to be eating it all, down to the homemade Twinkies. Thursday’s Korean fried chicken dinners are here. You’ve been warned.

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