One of great things about Portland, Oregon and the surrounding area is access to a nice amount of Japanese culture, and of course this includes delicious Japanese food.
Ramen is one of my personal favorites. While you can find some mediocre places, there are two really great ramen restaurants I highly recommend: this and this. So when I heard about a relately new Ramen place in Beaverton, FuddoYama Ramen, I couldn’t help trying it out.
Before stepping into the place I’ll admit to having some negative preconceptions. First, the name “Fuddo” didn’t initially sound very Japanese to me (though I later realized the title meant “Mount(ain) Hood”). Second, the sign of the restaurant looked pretty showy and decidedly un-Japanese. Nevertheless, I walked into FuddoYama with an empty stomach and some hope for a good bowl of Ramen.
The interior was nice, but also quite different from what I would expect from a Ramen place. The tables looked like natural wood, stylish but more like furniture I would see at a Cracker Barrel. There were gaudy decorations on the walls, apparently supposed to represent cherry blossoms in bloom, and a large TV on one side with some pop-Japanese content. One side was covered with mirrors on the middle of the wall. I know this technique is used to make a space look bigger, but I personally don’t like the look of excessive mirrors. The music had a mix of cheezy koto music (Americans associate this with Japan, but I don’t think many Japanese people really listen to koto music nowadays) and some other J-pop stuff, some of which I did enjoy.
But enough about the interior––as a Ramen lover I know that great taste will make me forgive any surface details of a restaurant.
I got the Red Miso Ramen and some Chicken Kara-Age. The Ramen was said to be spicy, and generally I am not a big fan of spicy ramen. But I really wanted Miso so I went for it anyway.
Here is the lowdown on my Ramen:
- Broth: not as thick as I liked nor did it have a strong miso taste. Despite the pre-warning, it wasn’t particularly spicy either. Having said that, it was tasty, though not good enough to make me want to drink it from the bowl.
- Nori (seaweed): Reasonably good, average if not slightly above average. I’ve had worse seaweed at other Ramen places in Oregon.
- Noodles: these were really good, nice texture and thickness, with delicious flavor.
- Meat (I chose the Fatty Pork): Very strange. It tasted more like ham and a strange rubbery texture. After a single bite I just lost all motivation for eating it.
And the Chicken Kara-Age:
- Presentation: it looked very strange, nothing like any Japanese Kara-Age I had eat before, both in terms of shape and texture. It’s a bit hard to describe but it looked more long and thin than lumpy. There was something like paprika on it which I didn’t expect.
- Flavor: Despite the weird appearance it was actually pretty good, with reasonably good meat quality.
- Dipping sauce: There was a spicy mustard on the side that was really great, I loved this.
While I didn’t try to talk to any of the waitstaff in Japanese, their appearance suggested most of them were not Japanese (except for maybe one guy behind the counter who might have been). But judging from various observations I think it’s unlikely this place is managed by a Japanese person. (Note: I should make it clear that lack of Japanese staff/owner doesn’t make a restaurant bad, however there is generally a correlation between good, authentic Japanese food and authenticity)
So how would I categorize this place? Well, while I can’t recommend it as a traditional Japanese ramen shop, I do think they are a worthy contender in the Americanized-Ramen genre. If you never had Japanese ramen before you may very well enjoy it, though if you did you’ll probably notice the differences.