After returning from the MIM Asia Trip last March and discovering the awesomeness of authentic ramen in Tokyo, Japan, I was determined to try to hunt down the best ramen in the Portland Metro area. So I rounded up a few willing participants and started the “Tour of Ramen.”
Going on tips and leads from other foodie friends, Japanese friends, and friends who have experienced Japan, Tour of Ramen went on three Ramen excursions before the whole experiment got out of control in a good way. I used a rating scale from 0-5, zero being the worst ramen to ever exist, and five being the best ramen outside of Japan in the Portland Metro area. My final judge for each ramen excursion was Naoki, our one MIM Japanese student in the 2010 cohort.
2838 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97266
Number of participants: 4 (three Americans – two whom have been to Japan, and one Japanese)
Ramen arrives, and Naoki looks at it and exclaims, “What is this?!” (Uh oh.) He explains that the broth has not been cooked long enough to give the ramen a deep flavor. The noodles are not hand made. The pork is thinly sliced, wimpy, and pretty bland compared to the thick, flavorful pieces of pork you get in your ramen in Tokyo, Japan.
Tour of Ramen Rating for Shogun Noodle (0-5): 1.5
Second stop for Tour of Ramen: Yuzu (Yuzu is tricky to find due to their lack of signage and the fact that it is a little hole in the wall place in a strip of businesses)
4130 SW 117th Ave., Suite H, Beaverton, OR 97005
Number of Participants: 7 (Four Americans – one whom has lived in Japan for a few years, three who have been to Tokyo, Japan, a Romanian-American who speaks Japanese fluently and has also spent a significant time in Japan, a Shanghainese who spent half her life in Japan, and one Japanese)
Yuzu was recommended by a Shanghai MIM alumni who spent half her life in Tokyo, Japan. Naoki was impressed with their ramen. He noted that although the noodles were not hand made, their broth had a very intense and deep flavor like that of ramen broth in Tokyo, Japan. Yuzu did a good job cooking their broth long enough to bring out the flavors. Everyone agreed Yuzu’s ramen was very tasty.
Tour of Ramen Rating for Yuzu (0-5): 4.0
Third stop for Tour of Ramen: Shigezo
910 SW Salmon St., Portland, OR 97205
Number of Participants: 11 (A Chinese-American originally from Hong Kong, two Koreans, a Romanian-American who speaks Japanese fluently and has also spent a significant time in Japan, a Shanghainese who spent half her life in Japan, five Americans – all of whom have been to Tokyo, Japan and one who has lived in Tokyo for a few years, and one Japanese)
Shigezo was recommend by a friend-of-a-friend that is from Japan (he also recommends the grilled chicken wings – order without sauce as it is served in Asia, which is, btw, very delicious). We were all impressed with Shigezo’s ramen. The portions are huge; you can order sides of egg, nori, and vegetables (ask for the sides menu if they do not give it to you initially). You can share a large bowl of ramen with two people and save a little money that way. Naoki gave Shigezo a 4.2 out of five, beating out Yuzu by 0.2. I asked why and he explained that the 0.2 extra points were given for Shigezo’s hand made noodles but that Yuzu’s broth is cooked longer and has a deeper more intense flavor than Shigezo’s broth, which is clearly not cooked quite as long. The great thing for MIMers is that Shigezo is located on the corner of SW Park and SW Salmon at the end of the South Park Blocks, walking distance from Portland State University campus! Shigezo also serves dinner until 10pm and has a late night menu until 11pm and 12am on some nights. One negative about Shigezo is that the wait for food is unpredictable, especially when they are busy and if you bring a larger party. It is not the place to go if you are in a rush to eat and run.
Tour of Ramen Rating for Shigezo (0-5): 4.2
Other ramen places to try with friends: Mirakutei and Biwa. I have been to both but not with the Tour of Ramen team and my official Japanese rater so I will refrain from giving my opinion of their ramen in this blog. Since the Tour of Ramen team keeps growing by 3-4 people each time, I don’t think either place is big enough to support 15-18 people showing up for dinner!
See, it’s not all work in the Master in International Management program!