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Kukai ramen in Beaverton


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#41 levbarg

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 11:17 AM

And since Kukai is listening, I'd like to make a request.


There was a ramenya in the Japanese LA suburb of Gardena, CA called Mottainai that made a roasted miso ramen.  I'd never tried anything like it before-- it was heavenly.  The roasting incorporated a smoky depth that was incredibly good.  My go-to bowl was roasted miso ramen with corn butter.  Good lord.... it was heaven in a bowl.

 

A couple of years ago, Mottainai went through some kind of ownership change.  The roasted miso ramen left the menu, and the overall quality of their ramen plummeted.  It was a sad day for Los Angeles ramen eaters.

 

If you could get your chefs to engineer a roasted miso ramen (with or without corn butter add-in) you would make me, and I suspect a huge number of Portlanders, very happy indeed.

 

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#42 ricechaz

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 09:22 AM

On saturday, my family and I snuck in during the soft opening. Lots of waitstaff busily learning. We had planned on going to Clutch but having no idea where Kukai was located noticed it across the parking lot, so we took a chance and were able to sneak a table. Very nice interior though less capacity then I envisioned. For a soft opening, waitstaff did a nice job though obvious lack of experience noticed but wouldn't expect otherwise. Food came out more promptly than I would have thought. My girls had the agedashi tofu. Seemed as good as many other versions though tofu sliced more like flat rectangles than cubes like most places. Decent version. Had the octopus dumplings, takoyaki. Very tasty with light touch with the bulldog sauce which is plenty. I had the gaflic tonkatsu ramen. Very happy with my choice. Great noodles and comes with an egg with soft not runny yolk which I prefer. Also with bamboo shoots, a pork which was thin sliced and grilled instead of chashu or pork belly. , and single slice of seaweed. I also upped with some fish cake. Really liked the pork given that it was grilled and crispy on the edges. Would have liked a lot more green onion but it's a personal preference. My family had the regular tonkatus ramen. Everyone was very happy and we will be back again. I have a feeling that given the restaurant capacity they will be busy in the future. Would l like to try the tsukemen ramen since you don't see that very often. Will post pictures when I get back home. Really great addition to Portland ramen scene. Amazing how it's blown up since we moved here in 2000 when it seemed there were no options. We were talking about it and it's really hard to say which is our favorite. They all have their unique flavors. Always good to have plenty of options.
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#43 crepeguy

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 10:26 AM

On saturday, my family and I snuck in during the soft opening. Lots of waitstaff busily learning. We had planned on going to Clutch but having no idea where Kukai was located noticed it across the parking lot, so we took a chance and were able to sneak a table. Very nice interior though less capacity then I envisioned. For a soft opening, waitstaff did a nice job though obvious lack of experience noticed but wouldn't expect otherwise. Food came out more promptly than I would have thought.

My girls had the agedashi tofu. Seemed as good as many other versions though tofu sliced more like flat rectangles than cubes like most places. Decent version. Had the octopus dumplings, takoyaki. Very tasty with light touch with the bulldog sauce which is plenty.

I had the gaflic tonkatsu ramen. Very happy with my choice. Great noodles and comes with an egg with soft not runny yolk which I prefer. Also with bamboo shoots, a pork which was thin sliced and grilled instead of chashu or pork belly. , and single slice of seaweed. I also upped with some fish cake. Really liked the pork given that it was grilled and crispy on the edges. Would have liked a lot more green onion but it's a personal preference. My family had the regular tonkatus ramen. Everyone was very happy and we will be back again. I have a feeling that given the restaurant capacity they will be busy in the future. Would l like to try the tsukemen ramen since you don't see that very often. Will post pictures when I get back home.

Really great addition to Portland ramen scene. Amazing how it's blown up since we moved here in 2000 when it seemed there were no options. We were talking about it and it's really hard to say which is our favorite. They all have their unique flavors. Always good to have plenty of options.


Thank you so much for posting this, looking forward to the pictures!

#44 doglover

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 01:16 PM

We had a terriffic first visit today with PaulW.

 

I just loved their Tankatsu Shio Rich Ramen.  Upgraded to Pork Belly too.  By far the best Ramen in PDX.  Other places get the ingredients right, but no one else gets the broth even close to what it should be.

 

Some pictures:

 

http://www.foodspotting.com/places/965286-kukai-ramen-izakaya-portland  (ignore the address, I submitted a fix to Foodspotting)

 

You can read more from the Oregonian here:

 

http://www.oregonliv...n_izakaya.html

 

Note that no Alcohol is available (yet).   Licquor license in progress.



#45 crepeguy

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 01:32 PM

We had a terriffic first visit today with PaulW.
 
I just loved their Tankatsu Shio Rich Ramen.  Upgraded to Pork Belly too.  By far the best Ramen in PDX.  Other places get the ingredients right, but no one else gets the broth even close to what it should be.
 
Some pictures:
 
http://www.foodspotting.com/places/965286-kukai-ramen-izakaya-portland  (ignore the address, I submitted a fix to Foodspotting)
 
You can read more from the Oregonian here:
 
http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/index.ssf/2015/05/first_look_kukai_ramen_izakaya.html
 
Note that no Alcohol is available (yet).   Licquor license in progress.


I'd go just for that fried squid! Looks delicious.

#46 WAfoodie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 03:24 PM

doglover, I want everything you ordered. You ate well my friend.



#47 pwillen1

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 05:30 PM

The agedashi tofu was really fantastic. crunchy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside, katsuobushi that just wouldn't quit waving. it was thinner cut than many which meant more surface area--a plus.

 

Someone please order the miso and report back. I really wanted to, but two bowls of ramen plus all those sides wouldda killed me.


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#48 WAfoodie

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 07:30 AM

The agedashi tofu was really fantastic. crunchy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside, katsuobushi that just wouldn't quit waving. it was thinner cut than many which meant more surface area--a plus.

 

Someone please order the miso and report back. I really wanted to, but two bowls of ramen plus all those sides wouldda killed me.

Can't get enough of agedashi tofu and the ethereal beauty of the "wave action". Had to look up my new word for the day, katsuobushi, and doubt that I could distinguish it from bonito flakes. Doglover's pic and your description sounds right. Biwa's version is my current standard by which I compare others.



#49 pwillen1

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 02:04 PM

IMAG4345-ANIMATION.gif


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#50 ricechaz

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 02:22 PM

Here's my photo from Saturday. BTW, love the "action video" of the flakes. 

 

17858997710_9cc07cfc72_k.jpgKukai by ricechaz, on Flickr


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#51 pwillen1

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 02:33 PM

nice.  what did you think of the fish cake? I found it too sweet.


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#52 levbarg

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 04:15 PM

My Lovely Tasting Assistant™ (LTA™) and I checked out Kukai on Sunday for lunch.  She ordered the tonkotsu shoyu ramen, and I ordered the yuzu shio ramen.  We figured that way, we'd be able to experience a rich, cloudy ramen alongside a clear, lighter ramen, and experience a broader spectrum of what Kukai has to offer.

 

Overall impression: this is a real ramenya-- the soup and noodles here are not an afterthought.  The soup and noodles, I feel, are the best I've tried in Portland.  I especially appreciate that they have noodles of different thicknesses for different soups (the richer tonkotsu ramen had thick noodles to grab onto more of the soup, while the clear yuzu shio ramen has thinner noodles).  Does Noraneko do this, too?  I don't recall.  The soft boiled egg in mine was properly cooked, while the egg in my LTA™'s soup was slightly underdone, unfortunately.

 

Now for the bad news-- the shoe leath-- er, I mean chashu.  Though to be fair, the restaurant says this is by design.  Their signature lean, thinly sliced chashu is marinated and then grilled (not braised, like the more traditional fatty pork belly style), and it becomes tough and chewy in the process.  In addition, the chashu had very obviously been cooked, cooled, and reheated again as it had that telltale "warmed over" flavor.  This chashu reminded me of the bad old days in Los Angeles, when Asahi Ramen on Sawtelle was the only game in town-- they served tough, reheated chashu like this, and it sent me into all kinds of unhappy memories.  l honestly thought it was a mistake, and with this being a soft opening I mentioned it to my server.  The manager came over to explain the concept to me.  She also graciously comped me a pork belly chashu upgrade ($2 extra).  This was certainly much closer to the traditional chashu I've come to know and love in ramen over the years-- however, while it was moist and tender on the fatty outer layer, unfortunately it was sort of dry towards the center.  It was a huge improvement over the original, but they do need to tweak this as well.  The best chashu I've had is consistently moist, tender and succulent throughout.

 

We also tried to kaarage salad, and the fried chicken was the tastest I've tried in Portland.  Although the salad was fine, they dressed the fried chicken also and it came out not as crispy as we would have liked.  Next time, we'll order the salad and kaarage separately.  And we'll certainly try the agedashi tofu-- that looked absolutely wonderful.

 

All in all, this is a fantastic starting point and I hope Kukai takes this as constructive criticism it is meant as, and only improves.  They are a refreshingly welcome addition to the ramen scene here in Portland.

 

Mr Taster

 

NB Was delighted to see that they have a branch of this ramenya in Taichung, Taiwan-- birthplace of my LTA™!  (Though she's not from the fancy Xitung district, where the shop is located).  Next time we go back home to visit the family, I'll be sure to try it and see how it compares.  In a similar way that American Chinese food is often adapted to American tastes, Taiwan has a way of adapting foreign restaurants to local tastes, so it can be hard to get a Japanese-tasting bowl of ramen there.



#53 ricechaz

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 04:45 PM

Yep, thought the fish cake was a little sweet, but I grew up devouring the brand that has the pink on the outside and white on the inside. Can't tell you which one it is but always buy that at the korean market on 82nd. I have a feeling that we are going to be regulars there though it's on the far side of town for when we came in. 

 

Speaking of kaarage, had it at Hokusei. It was wonderful, nice and moist. Had too many versions that are dry and crusty so I usually don't order it. 


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#54 ExtraMSG

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 05:53 PM

the chashu had very obviously been cooked, cooled, and reheated again as it had that telltale "warmed over" flavor

 

Tell-tale "warmed over" flavor is in your head. There is no such thing. No chashu is made to order and I'd be willing to bet that most, even at your favorite places, is re-heated to order.

 

(For one thing, I don't know how you'd get a nice slice of rolled pork belly without letting it cool first.  But for another, it just doesn't make restaurant sense to keep your braised meat cooking, even at a modest temperature below a simmer, where it will get drier and overly tender, when you can cook it perfect and quickly re-heat it to order, maintaining the moisture and cooking level you want.)


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#55 pwillen1

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 06:01 PM

Ricechaz the kamaboko at noraneko is the kind we prefer.
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#56 levbarg

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 06:12 PM





the chashu had very obviously been cooked, cooled, and reheated again as it had that telltale "warmed over" flavor


Tell-tale "warmed over" flavor is in your head. There is no such thing. No chashu is made to order and I'd be willing to bet that most, even at your favorite places, is re-heated to order.

(For one thing, I don't know how you'd get a nice slice of rolled pork belly without letting it cool first. But for another, it just doesn't make restaurant sense to keep your braised meat cooking, even at a modest temperature below a simmer, where it will get drier and overly tender, when you can cook it perfect and quickly re-heat it to order, maintaining the moisture and cooking level you want.)
100% not in my head, Nick.

Warmed over flavor comes from the meat oxidizing and the way around that is to keep the meat submerged in a substance like a stew sauce that has plenty of fat and gelatin to keep the oxygen in the air from funkifying the meat.

That's why reheated roast chicken tastes funky, while reheated chicken stew does not. My workaround to avoid warmed-over flavor is simply to use leftover roast chicken, for example, in a cold application like a chicken salad, rather than reheating it and dealing with the warmed over funk.

If you're using your guisados as evidence to support your position, it also explains why you think it doesn't exist (which is odd-- it's an accepted fact.)

The chashu at Kukai had definitely oxidized (the original, not the belly, which I imagine was likely stored in a layer of braising liquid).

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#57 ExtraMSG

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 08:13 PM

Levbarg, I believe what you've been eating isn't roast chicken or chashu, but baloney.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#58 levbarg

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 08:22 PM

Levbarg, I believe what you've been eating isn't roast chicken or chashu, but baloney.

 

Seriously?

 

There's a whole industry trying to figure out cheaper and cheaper ways to prevent this phenomenon in processed foods.

 

It's much easier to prevent in home and small scale cooking, as I've outlined above.

 

http://old.pork.org/...rmover04373.pdf

http://pubs.acs.org/...021/jf00093a017

http://www.foodprodu...--november.aspx

http://onlinelibrary...3355.x/abstract

http://www.researchg...e51c0000000.pdf

 

I'll edit by saying that just because you can't taste it doesn't mean the phenomenon doesn't exist.  The sheer volume of evidence is not on your side, and overwhelmingly so.

 

Mr Taster



#59 Flynn

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 08:26 PM

Yep, thought the fish cake was a little sweet, but I grew up devouring the brand that has the pink on the outside and white on the inside. 


The sweet fish cake thing always bothers me as well. Chalked it up to a quirk of my palate.

Great pics and reports. Very excited to try this place.

#60 crepeguy

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 08:47 PM

This is the best thread ever. I'm learning all kinds of stuff I never knew before.

 

I just wanted to say, warmed over flavor aside, that this is their "soft opening" (first day), so critiquing the place on a public forum seems unfair. If you have "suggestions" for the owners, it would be nicer if you contacted them directly. They may have cut some corners on the pork prep for whatever reason. Who knows? 

 

The concept of "soft openings" is relatively foreign to me. Yeah, I've worked many "friends and family" nights, but that's it. This soft opening, to me, seems like a cop-out. Train your staff, get your situation dialed in, cook for your close ones, then have at it. I have a pancake place near me that has had a "soft opening" for over a month. That's a joke. 

 

I can hardly wait to try Kukai.