Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Boke Bowl West

What: Boke Bowl West
Where: 1200 NW 18th
Honeys Heart: Brussels Sprout Salad

When Kelly and I first tried Boke Bowl East about three years ago, Boke Bowl was the hot new spot in town. It was only open for lunch and it was PACKED. Kel and I went in with high expectations and when those weren't exactly met, we just never went back.

Now, a few years later, Boke Bowl has a second location on the westside and after a few months of driving by it everyday on my way home from work, I realized that I really wanted to give Boke Bowl another shot.

Kel and Adam visited the westside location first, both opting for the Pork Dashi ($10) ramen and though they thought the noodles, veggies, and meat were all good independently, the overall dish was a bit too rich and didn't quite hit the spot for them.

Our first joint HHH meal at Boke Bowl West came after a rock climbing session with Adam and Doug. We ended up arriving just in time for their Dim Sum brunch, which is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-3pm.

Boke Bowl says "this is our non-faithful recreation of the Cantonese-style, tapas-like, small-plate/pushed cart service offered at more traditional Chinese restaurants." I've never had dim sum, so I don't have much to compare it to, but it is a fun concept.

After you're seated, servers come around with a few different carts. They share their offerings with you, all of which range from $3.75 to $5.75, and you can opt in or wait for other plates to come around.

We tried a few different plates including Potstickers, Spicy Wings, Baos, and Sui Mai (dumplings), but our favorites were the Chinese Greens with Oyster Sauce and a special crawfish and spicy pork stew with rice.

Everything was good, but even with the plates we liked best, we were all left with the same feeling Kel and I had after our first Boke experience: one of slight disappointment. Like, why aren't we more excited about this? Why does it feel so overpriced? It certainly wasn't bad... we just wanted more from the experience.

Still, I wanted to give Boke one more chance so when my friend Kendall wanted to meet up for lunch in NW, I suggested we grab food there.

The server at the front counter was very friendly on this visit. He told us the warm Brussels Sprout Salad ($10) with cauliflower, citrus slices, tofu croutons, and Thai vinaigrette was his favorite item on the menu, so we decided to split that as well as an order of three different steam buns ($9).

The server knew what he was talking about. That salad was my favorite thing I've eaten at Boke Bowl- east and west. The combination of perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with bright touches of citrus and savory bits of tofu croutons was just delicious. If I go back, I'll definitely order that.

Our Brisket, Miso Mushroom, and Fried Chicken buns were reasonably tasty too, but that salad was hard to top.

So, after each giving Boke Bowl two more chances each, how do Kel and I feel now? Pretty indifferent, I think. I would go back for the Brussels sprouts and... that might be about it. Guess Boke just isn't for us.