Thursday, January 19, 2012

Portland Restaurant: Boke Bowl

What: Boke Bowl
Where: 1028 SE Water Ave
When: 10 am - 3 pm Mon - Sat
Honeys Heart: Fried Pears

Katie and I were introduced to Boke Bowl over the summer at a World Forestry Center fundraiser. Their food was awesome and we have been anxious for them to find a permanent location. Having heard nothing but rave reviews about Boke Bowl's recently opened restaurant on SE Water Ave, and getting a tweet from Boke Bowl saying "bring it ladies" it was definitely time to hit up this hot spot.

We know this is the darling of the Portland food scene right now and we know we might upset some people by saying this... but we weren't so impressed. Now, before you go getting all defensive, let us explain why: 

After placing our order at the counter, we found a spot by the kitchen and began our lunch with Pork Steam Buns ($6). The pork was tender, the buns were warm and soft, and the pickles, though kind of surprising, added a nice flavor.

So no complaints there really. And $2 per bun seems pretty fair. Moving on.

Due to our convenient location, or the generosity of the chef, we were given some complimentary Fried Pears ($2.50) which were probably our favorite part of the meal. The sweetness of the pears, combined with the tart flavor of the vinegar was really delicious.

But then came the ramen. Katie chose the Pork and Chicken ($9), and so did I... I thought. But I was served the Seafood Miso ($10), which ended up being okay with me. Katie's meat-filled ramen was heartier, with a darker broth. The flavor was subtle and lacking the complexity we expected after the pork buns and the pears. A bit of a letdown for sure.

The seafood ramen, made with boiled shrimp, was lighter and we thought more flavorful. You might expect garnishes such as greens, braised bamboo or water chestnuts in a ramen, but we thought the butternut squash in these was a nice addition.

So what didn't we like about the place? Though our bowls were good, and despite the fact that Boke Bowl is competitively priced with other popular ramen places in town including WafuBiwa, and Mirakutei, we both felt slightly unsatisfied.

Perhaps we did it all wrong and we should have added some of the sauces on the table or Pork Belly ($1.50) or Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($3) off the menu, but then our bowls of ramen would have been $11 to $13, and that just seems sort of crazy for a bowl of soup (which, come on, is what ramen really is).

Or maybe we just played into the hype too much and set our expectations higher than they should have been. (But really, have you been on Twitter lately? @Bokebowl is blowing up.)

Or maybe we just aren't huge ramen fans to begin with.
Anyway, the point is, we probably won't be going back soon. Which means two more spots open at the lunch table for the rest of you. You're welcome...?

Oh, and we also decided to try one of Boke Bowl's Miso Butterscotch Twinkies ($1.5) for dessert, which we enjoyed because we liked that it wasn't overly sweet. But would we order it again? Probably not.

But hey, Boke Bowl also does a Korean Fried Chicken Night on Thursdays from 5 to 9:30pm so perhaps we should try that?