Best of the Bowls

Fathomless pho, Korean hot pots, and goat curry

Edited by Rachel Ritchie By Karen Brooks and Benjamin Tepler February 22, 2013

Clockwise from top left: Canteen’s walnut taco salad, the #1 at Pho Oregon, goat curry at Biwa, and bibimbap at Spring Restaurant


Pho Oregon

With more than two-dozen soul-warming variations, Pho Oregon contends for Portland’s best thanks to a potent, restorative broth of dense beef flavor and subtle clove. Served piping hot, it’s the showcase for just-right noodles and various meaty options, from fat brisket chunks to rare eye round steak, paired with bundles of herbs and chile paste.   ($7.45–8.95)

Super Bowl A  

Good Taste Noodle House

Past rows of hanging duck awaits one of Portland’s tastiest (and biggest) wonton soups. What the house humbly calls “Super Bowl A” features silky dumplings bobbing harmoniously alongside bright yellow egg noodles and a mass of barbecued duck and pork edged with sticky, caramelized skin. Super, indeed.  ($10.25)

Turmeric Soup

HA & VL 

Every day at this cult favorite brings two small-batch regional soups, each a dip into the Vietnamese flavor universe. But Sunday delivers the ultimate: an orange-hued turmeric soup sporting thick rice noodles, half-moons of delicate sausage, heaping hunks of melting pork belly, and a sesame-studded rice cracker protruding from its depths.   ($8)

Macaroni Gratin

Little Bird Bistro

At Gabriel Rucker’s sexy Francophile bistro, a heavenly mac and cheese beckons. A dish of bubbling white Tillamook cheddar and gruyère coats tiny elbow pasta with a punchy streak of Rogue blue and a browned landscape of bread crumbs and chives.   ($8)


Spring Restaurant

Three variations of mix-it-yourself Korean bibimbap tumble out of this tiny kitchen with an assortment of banchan—flavor-bomb accessories like kimchi radishes or soy-glazed cucumber. The standard bap heaps rice, marinated beef, greens, and an over-easy egg spiced to order with gochujang (a sweet, funky chile paste); two other red-hot versions sizzle in stone bowls that crisp the rice while you eat.  ($8.95–10.95)



Tokyo-based chain Shigezo serves bowls of authenticity. Order the brothless “Abu” ramen, supremely slurpable noodles and marinated chashu pork belly coated in thick, spicy chile paste and runny egg yolk. Stray from tradition with a pickled kimchi upgrade ($1).   ($9)

Walnut Taco Salad


Inside this Ikea-chic vegan haven, a world of fresh-fruit smoothies and healthful bowls awaits. You want the walnut taco salad: a frill of sliced avocado, a mountain of greens from Greenville Farms, plus chunky pico de gallo, crunchy walnut paste, and a garlicky cashew “nacho” spread primed by tangy bell pepper. Mix in a side of rice for the full taco salad effect.  ($8)

Japanese Goat Curry


Biwa bosses Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz import inspiration from their journeys in Sapporo. This one channels the earthy stews of a favorite curry shop, adding the house obsession with goats. Braised and stewed in goat stock thickened by puréed parsnips, the meat emerges as a thick triumph of extreme comfort, spooned over rice and shiso leaves and capped with a cured soft-boiled egg. ($11)

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