For the past decade, while big-city food scenes like New York and San Francisco embraced Japanese ramen experts and debated the merits of Sapporo vs. Kyoto style, Portland was still dreaming up its own idea of ramen, with eccentric rambles from caramelized fennel dashi to buttermilk-fried chicken toppings.
This year we were finally graced with real, bona fide ramen. Gaggles of Japanese tourists now line up outside Marukin Ramen’s narrow, crimson-hued dining room on SE Ankeny Street alongside the rest of us to try the celebrated Tokyo chain’s first stateside outpost. Two ramens rotate daily, so plan your visit for the house specialty: Hakata-style tonkotsu. The milky white, salty-good broth, made with local Carlton pork, induces audible squeals with its multidimensional porcine potency. If it’s not on offer, try for the paiton shio, a dark golden, Portland-exclusive chicken concentrate rumbling with umami. The noodles are unbeatable: springy, light, toothsome, extruded from an in-house ramen-making machine that—like the shop’s lead chefs—was imported at great cost to ensure that everything is blessedly fresh and authentically Japanese. No disrespect to our native ramens, but it was about time.