Hakatamon

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It’s  been a bit over a year since Hakatamon—the Japanese restaurant nestled into the southwest corner of the Uwajimaya superstore in Beaverton—debuted it’s ramen. Known for its hand rolled udon, Hakatamon went on noodle hiatus at the time – claiming that a spike in wheat prices had made making it’s own udon noodles untenable. As they announced a move towards commercially available udon, they also announced that they would debut two ramen dishes in April, 2008, including a tonkotsu (pork bone broth) and a cha sui ramen (stewed pork).

I was quite excited, as my ramen experiences in Portland have been less than stellar. When I first moved here in 2002, I frequented the Koji Osakaya on Macadam and ate their version of both tonkotsu and cha sui ramen regularly. Though they were using clearly pre-fab fresh ramen packages, they did generally an ok job of gussying it up enough to sate my appetite.

Nothing could compare, however, to the excellent ramen I at often in San Diego when I lived there in the late nineties, or the ramen I’ve eaten in the Bay Area. Ramen tastes and one’s idea of what constitutes “good” ramen is one of the most subjective concepts in the food universe. When Biwa opened up in 2006 and served ramen in their excellent izakaya setting, I was very underwhelmed. However, it seemed to be universally held up by others in this fair burg as an excellent rendition of the venerable Japanese noodle soup. For me, it always fell short, but that’s the subject of another post.

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Hakatamon also does a fairly good job with some of the Japanese standards. This poke is one of my favorites in town, if only because it’s an excellent value at only $5.95.

The sashimi and nigiri I’ve had heard has been inconsistent, but generally I would have to give them fairly good marks, again for the ratio of value/quality that can be had here. I’ve explored many other items on the menu – katsu, chirashi, (large rice balls studded in the center with a single uemeboshi) – and all has been solid-to-fair.

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Back to the ramen. The standard bowl ($7.95) is garnished sparingly with pickled ginger, green onions, a hunk of stewed pork, sliced stewed konbu, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

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The noodles here are commercial noodles that—if I had a guess (judging by their texture and lack of curliness)—begin the day as dried noodles. Not ideal by any means, but they stand up relatively well.

I will go on record by saying I enjoy the hakata-style ramen at Hakatamon. When they first opened, it seemed to me they were serving two separate, rich and hearty stocks – a cloudier, cream-colored tonkotsu pork bone broth, and a bold, darker version that accompanied the cha sui version. Both were excellent, however the two broth strategy appeared to be ditched shortly after introduction and only one broth (more the former than the latter) is now served.

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The cha sui ($9.50) is basically the standard hakata-style with more pork.

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And what good pork it is. Fall-apart tender slices of meat, with a hefty amount of fat (and a bit of unctuous skin) that melts away as you bite into it. The broth has the same viscosity as the tonkotsu, nice and thick and “meaty”, and picks up some of the rendering fat from the pork as you eat through it. Slurping up the last few spoonfuls of broth was rich and satisfying, akin to sucking on a pork marrow bone.

Hakatamon

(503) 430-3106
4130 SW 117th Ave
Beaverton, OR 97005

Hakatamon on the WORLD WIDE WEB

Portlandfood.org
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6 thoughts on “Hakatamon”

  1. I like their noodles, even if prepackaged. If Yuzu would use in their kakune ramen whichever brand Hakatamon uses, that would be very nice indeed.

    I always forget about their poke, but it’s really good and you get about twice as much as you do at Biwa.

  2. I think you may be right – I’ve been buying a fair amount of fresh and fresh-frozen noodles varieties (usually 4 or 5 to a package), and have found a couple that are a simulacrum.

  3. I think you and I may be the only people in the universe who were underwhelmed by Biwa’s ramen. I only tried it once, and it wasn’t bad or anything, but it sure didn’t taste like any ramen I’ve ever had, and trust me, I’ve had A LOT of ramen (it’s in the genes).

  4. To answer some mysteries, our ramen is a pork bone based soup, which consists of vegetables, pork parts and bone (tonkotsu) ; which is reduced for 3 days, until bone marrow and veggies are completely broken down. This type of ramen we specialize in is famous in southern Japan, where the city of Hakata is located. The noodles are also different from regular ramen. Biggest difference is the thickness. Since hakata style ramen egg noodles are extremely difficult to produce and perfect, we carefully chose a small noodle shop located in California; and have their fresh (not frozen), handcrafted noodles sent right to our kitchen. To insure the very best tonkotsu ramen, our soup is created weekly; a tedious process in which Hakatamon takes pride in. Come taste the difference.
    –James (store manager)

  5. The San Diego ramen scene is nothing special, in my opinion (having been spoiled by the wonderfulness in Tokyo and Sapporo, the bar is set high); I was excited to try the offerings in the Portland area when I went up there last month on business. Sadly, I was completely underwhelmed by the ramen at Biwa. I tried both of their soups (“chicken” and “pork”); they were oversalted and otherwise lacked any substantive flavor. The next time I am in town I might have to give Hakatamon a spin.

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