Umai

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Ramen Food Cart

Umai Ramen Food Cart Portland

Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne behind the Hazel Room
Hours: Wed-Sat, 12-8pm, Sun, 12-3pm

The Story: Good Food, Good Music and Community. That comes from Umai’s Facebook page and in my opinion defines food carts here in Portland. Umai is one of the latest vendors to open offering up ramen and more.

Umai is the work of Austin Moore and Forest Carter, a couple of bluegrass musicians who decided to explore the wide world of Japanese ramen and open a cart. Located in an alleyway just off 33rd north of Hawthorne, the pod sports four different vendors, seating and the day I visited, live World Cup action. The guys offer up ramen along with sandwiches and sides. For ramen, they focus on three styles – shio which is sea-salt broth; shoyu which is soy sauce based; and miso. Everything is made in the cart, even the house noodles.

Ramen Food Cart

Shio Ramen from Umai

Being a fan of shio, that was my first choice. The bowl, full of noodles with the thick broth comes topped with steamed greens, pork shoulder, marinated egg, pickled shiitake and scallions. The broth is steaming hot, so I picked at it for awhile to allow it to cool. Delicate tongue here. That picking allowed me to taste the different items individually. The shiitakes are amazing offering a cloying sweetness that when mixed with the broth or a piece of pork just took my breath away. Crisp edges of pork shoulder and the egg’s still runny yolk and the greens, cooked, but still crunchy. All these items made up a superb bowl of ramen.

Umai is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. Lunch only on Sundays. Due to limited space, they do have a sign stating they can only do so much, so my recommendation is to get there early. I’m so looking forward to returning for some other great flavors. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu: (Full menu available on their website.)

  • Ramen – $10
  • Vegetarian Ramen – $10
  • Brothless Ramen: warm house noodles tossed in miso tare and topped with ginger, fried chicken or eggplant, pickled veggies, steamed greens and marinated egg – $9
  • Chicken Karaage sandwich with bacon chutney – $8
  • Eggplant Karaage sandwich with yuzu kosho aioli – $7

Website: UmaiPDX.com
Facebook: Umai PDX

Hapa Ramen

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Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa Ramen Portland

Location: SE 50th and Division, A la Carts Food Pavilion
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11am-2:30 and 5-8pm

The Story: A couple of years ago, Japanese Ramen took the nation by storm. I’m not taking the ramen we ate in college, I’m talking rich creamy, fatty pork broth with noodles and thinly sliced green onions. Portland jumped right in, launching numerous restaurants and even attracting a Japanese firm to open a food cart. Now that we’ve all been able to enjoy this velvety dish, we may have our favorites. I would like to add someone new to the list – Hapa Ramen.

Hapa Ramen opened in October and has been working out the kinks of preparing and serving the hot dish from a food cart. The owners, Michael and Sara grew up on ramen in Hawaii, yet couldn’t find similar dishes here in Portland, so decided to make their own. You may know Michael as he has been a fixture at 808 Grinds for a few years before venturing off on this new project. Sarah though is who gets the credit for the recipes according to Michael. They both have visited numerous ramen shops throughout the city and beyond to taste the different styles and interpretations. Sarah trained up with a ramen chef and has been experimenting with different broths and styles to get the offerings just right. In Japan, there are more than 14 different styles and each chef puts their twist on the traditional recipe. Sarah and Michael have done just that at Hapa Ramen.

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa offers Shoyu Ramen, a classic; Miso Ramen, a sweet option that can be done vegetarian; and Curry Ramen which is spicy – each with their own unique flavors. It is the Shaka Bowl which caught my eye and Michael recommended. The bowl comes from a traditional Tsukemen Ramen style, yet Michael and Sarah thought that may be too much for customers to say, so they shortened it to Shaka! “Eat this blazing hot,” Michael said. With the pork belly broth served in one bowl and fresh egg noodles, shiitake and egg in another, chopstick the noodles into the flaming broth and slurp. Yep, slurp. The broth is fatty, creamy, almost thick, but not. Made over the course of 8-10 hours to break down the pork, it leaves a fantastically lovely lardy film on your lips. The egg noodles were amazing, a brand used by most if not all the ramen houses out there. Michael and Sarah, while putting their own little love into each dish, don’t stray too far from tradition.

I’m excited to have another ramen cart open in Portland, yet wish it were closer to my house. I’m selfish that way. Hapa Ramen is open daily except for Mondays and serves up lunch and dinner. They take an afternoon break to prep for the dinner hour. As winter arrives, their hours may change, so check their website or Facebook or give them a call to make sure they are open. Hapa Ramen does ramen right. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Shoyu Ramen – classic-  topped with cha shu pork, spinach, egg, fishcake and nori – $8
  • Miso Ramen – sweet – topped with cha shu pork, bamboo shoots, egg; vegetarian option – $8
  • Curry Ramen – spicy – topped with cha shu pork or ginger fried chicken, spinach, shiitake – $8
  • Shaka Bowl – $7.50
  • Keiki Bowk – kid size – $5

Website: HapaPdx.com
Facebook: Hapa Ramen PDX
Twitter: @HapaPdx
Phone: 503.560.0393

Sushi PDX

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Sushi PDX

Sushi PDX

Location: SE 43rd and Belmont
Hours: Tue-Sun, 12pm to 3pm; 5pm to 8pm

The Story:

Sushi has gained greater acceptance in American culture over the years. There are now countless variations of this delicacy, using multiple meats, fish, vegetables, and sauces. The best part: sushi is an ideal street food. People likely use chopsticks, but it is OK to pick the sushi up and eat it with your hands.

Toshi, a sushi chef for over 20 years, opened Sushi PDX about eight months ago. Each piece of sushi and bowl of udon soup exiting his cart showcases the skills he acquired over the years. I visited Japan on a summer study abroad nine years ago, so Toshi and I briefly talked about our experiences there. He’s originally from Japan, but has only been back twice in the last quarter-century.

Sushi PDX

Sushi PDX

The DST Roll is one of the top-selling items. No, probably not what you’re thinking, either. It’s shorthand for double ST, or spicy tuna and shrimp tempura. Crab salad is also added inside the roll. I salivated imagining the crunchy tempura, the mild spicy tuna kick, and the creamy crab salad. The sushi is rolled perfectly, with a generous helping of seafood in the center. The tempura is crispy, contrasting with the other ingredients and the fresh fish is comforting and satisfying. The pickled ginger and wasabi, both served on the side, each add that extra zing to the experience.

There are some vegetarian items on the menu as well. If you’re not a big sushi lover, Toshi offers five different udon noodle soups at dinner time, perfect on a cold, rainy evening. Oh, and Sushi PDX now delivers, using Pegasus Delivery to get food to your home or office (hand rolls not included, likely because it loses its freshness en route to its destination). Head over to Sushi PDX and try Toshi’s food. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya!

Sample Menu:

Various sushi rolls ($3 to $8.50); includes:

  • Vegetable Roll – $4.50
  • Spicy Tuna Roll – $5.50 (add 50 cents for avocado)
  • DST Roll – $6
  • Crunchy Roll – $6.50
  • Soft Shell Crab Roll – $8.50

Various hand rolls – $3.25 each, two for $6, three for $8.50

  • Choices include spicy tuna, California, salmon skin, vegetable, and spicy scallop

Udon Soup (dinner only)

  • Kake (plain) – $5
  • Sansai – $6
  • Niku (with Pork or Chicken) – $6
  • Tempura – $6.50 (two pieces tempura); $7.25 (three pieces)
  • Curry (with pork or chicken) – $7

Miso soup – $1.50

Hours: Tue-Sun, 12pm to 3pm; 5pm to 8pm
Website: SushiPDX.com
Twitter: @SushiPDX
Facebook: Sushi PDX

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Minizo

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Minizo

Location: N Skidmore and Mississippi at Mississippi Marketplace
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11-3

The Story:

Ramen is the new pork in Portland with carts and restaurants alike revisiting this wonderful Japanese dish. Minizo, Noodleburger, opened this month to offer both ramen and burgers along with other Japanese delights

Minizo is the work of Tamio Nojima and Yasuharu Nojiri who are with Shigezo, a Japanese Izakaya downtown by the south park blocks. Shigezo is part of a larger company with over 100 restaurants in Japan. Portland is their first stop stateside and Minizo is their first cart. Oh, and Minizo translates as small Shigezo. How cool is that? When you visit, you may also run into Toku, a manager or Ken, an executive chef, both from Shigezo.

Minizo Abu-Ramen

Minizo Abu-Ramen

Minizo offers up Japanese style noodle soups, Japanese style curry and their version of burgers. The Abu-Ramen, one of the many styles of ramen out of Japan, is made with fresh wheat flour noodles, green onion, sesame seeds, bean sprouts, seasoned soy sauce – kaeshi, chili oil and chashu pork. What you’ll notice about this dish – there isn’t a clear broth like we might expects with ramen. The noodles are tossed in a seasoned kaeshi sauce that sticks to the noodles. While you can slurp, you’re not spooning broth. The ramen was exceptional, with a breadth of flavors, both spicy and salty and you could taste the care in the thick handmade noodles. I’m definitely heading back for more.

Minizo isn’t just ramen. They do have their own styles of burgers – a chicken katsu burger or a shrimp burger. Something new to try. I’m happy to see another Japanese cart open. Such great food and so few places to enjoy it. Drop on by Minizo and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Abu-Ramen: green onions, bean sprouts, sesame seeds, seasoned soy sauce, handmade noodles, chashu pork, chili oil – $6
  • Veggie Abu-Ramen: noodles tossed in original shiodare sea salt sauce and mixed with green onions, bean sprouts, seasoned burdock root and carrots, fried tofu and chili oil – $6
  • Okinawa Noodle Soup: homemade pork and bonito broth with green onion, shredded omelet, chashu pork, and a side of red ginger – $6.50
  • Brown Curry: curry sauce made from slow simmered onions, fresh carrots, ginger, potatoes, garlic and Japanese spice blend – stewed together with chicken broth and served with steaming rice and pickled radish – $5
  • Chicken Katsu Curry: curry served with deep fried chicken katsu – $6.50
  • Veggie Curry: curry with vegetable and seaweed stock. served with fried eggplant, zucchini, carrot, potatoes and onion -$6.50
  • Chicken Katsu Burger: deep fried chicken breast dressed with sweet amazu vinegar soy sauce and served with cabbage and lettuce – $6
  • Shrimp Burger: fresh shrimp, eggs and white onion dressed in white bechamel sauce, breaded in Panko and deep fried – $6

Hours: weekdays, lunchtime

 

Roll Plus

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Roll Plus

Roll Plus

Location: SW 9th and Alder
Hours:
Daily for lunch

The Story:

Sushi is one of those dishes you usually do not find served from carts. Portland has a vegetarian sushi cart and a Hawaiian cart that does great rolls and now Roll Plus becomes the fourth.

We always say that when one cart closes, someone is always there to take its place and sometimes offer something new or unique. Roll Plus is in the former Pho Sam cart. I’m going to miss those Banh mi sandwiches and Pho, but am excited to have sushi options available for lunch. Upon first visit, I was a bit overwhelmed by the options. Usually, a cart will focus on just a few simple items that can be mixed and matched. Here you can get everything from fresh spicy tuna rolls with cucumber and imitation crab to edamame, seaweed salad and even Miso soup.

Spicy Tuna Shrimp Tempura Roll

Spicy Tuna Shrimp Tempura Roll

I never know how much sushi to order. I’m a fan of the sushi train so I can regulate my intake and try different items made fresh. At Roll Plus you order whole rolls with either 4 or 6 pieces. I’ve had 4 pieces at restaurants that have filled me up but have also had a roll with 6 pieces that left me wanting, so at Roll Plus, I ordered two rolls – a Spicy Tuna Roll and the Spicy Tuna Shrimp Tempura Roll. For $10 I had enough to easily feed two if not three. Each roll was well prepared and put in the to-go container creating a great presentation. The spicy tuna roll came with imitation crab and avocado rolled with the rice on the outside, sprinkled with sesame seeds and topped with spicy tuna and sauce. The spicy tuna shrimp tempura roll was even larger with the tempura shrimp, imitation crab and avocado inside and the spicy tuna on the outside. I love the crunch of the tempura and the creaminess of the avocado all mixed together. On a warm sunny day sitting in the park, I sat there with a smile on my face while enjoying some amazing rolls and plenty of wasabi and ginger.

I have eaten at many of Portland’s sushi places and I have to say Roll Plus will offer some stiff competition – especially downtown with the lack of inexpensive sushi options. The food is prepared made to order and the price is unbeatable for what you get. Now open at SW 9th and Alder, drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • California Roll – 8pcs – $3.50
  • Spicy Tuna  – 8pcs – $4
  • Unagi Roll – 8pcs – $4.50
  • Super California Roll – 6pcs – imitation crab, avocado, cucumber – deep fried – $5
  • Shrimp Tempura Roll – 8pcs – imitation crab, avocado, deep fried shrimp – $5
  • Spicy Tuna Shrimp Tempura Roll – 5pcs – $6
  • Chicken Katsu – $4.50
  • Fried Rice w/stir fried chicken – $5
  • Edamame – $2
  • Seaweed Salad – $3
  • Yakisoba – $3
  • Miso soup – $1

Hours: Daily for lunch
Contact: unknown
Twitter: @Roll_Plus_PDX

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