Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ramen Truck

The Ramen Truck is a ramen food truck located in the alleyway around SE 33rd and Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon.

Menu (as of early October 2011)
Seating area near the truck
I had read several positive reviews on Yelp, but those eventually filtered out, replaced with all negative feedback. After Food Carts Portland did a short review of The Ramen Truck, I had to find out if I should believe the supporters or the haters.

Basically, ordering is simple: pick a broth (only two items at the time I went, a regular tonkotsu pork broth or their garlic-infused pork broth), choose a size (small or large), and add any additional toppings (hard boiled egg, nori, chashu, etc.).

The Ramen Truck makes their own tonkotsu broth and even makes their own ramen noodles from scratch. Very impressive.

I ordered a small ramen with garlic tonkotsu broth, hard-boiled egg, and their spicy sauce on the side. Adding the total up from the menu board, I thought I would be paying $6.50 for the ramen, but the cart owner only charged me $6 here.

Small ramen (garlic broth, hard-boiled egg, and spicy sauce on the side)
(The Ramen Truck)
The lovely house-made ramen noodles and tonkotsu garlic broth!
The tonkotsu garlic broth here was unlike any ramen broth I've encountered. I really enjoyed the thicker, creamier identity that it gave the dish. Very comforting and delicious. I thought the noodles were also very good. Probably a bit soft for my liking (I like my noodles more al dente), but still mad props for making this from scratch.

The flavorful chashu was extremely tender and disintegrated in my mouth without much effort. The hard-boiled egg was perfectly cooked. The spicy sauce appeared nothing more than the sambal oelek one can get from the Asian section of a supermarket. For me, maybe another spicier sauce (for a side condiment) would be nice.

In mid-October, The Ramen Truck added a new menu item: piri piri ramen, a spicy broth with a bunch of spicy toppings. The rave reviews have been pouring in for that one as well. I'll have to try that next time!

The Ramen Truck should consider a vegetarian broth option in the future. I noticed two women coming up to the truck and asking about that. Obviously, they were disappointed when there was no such option available. Catering to specific needs, even gluten-free, would be great, but the GF option may be more difficult to pull off (since the noodles are made from scratch and cross-contamination issues would need to be addressed).

Anyway, I'd have to side with the Ramen Truck supporters on this one. It's a very good meal that should be a hit during the winter months. Personally, I'm thinking anyone giving this cart a negative review could have used any of the following as reasons for their rating:

(1) they were turned off by the thicker broth (perhaps being used to the packaged ramen one likely eats during college);

(2) they had a thinner broth served to them (which the cart owner apparently fixed); or

(3) they had a less flavorful broth during their experience (also seemingly fixed here).

In fact, The Ramen Truck experienced some terrific business after Food Carts Portland did their review. The truck sold out just about each day for a few days after that blog post. At least from what I've been reading since my visit, The Ramen Truck has garnered more and more positive word of mouth. If this cart gets an umbrella or tent for the outside seating, they should continue to be a hit as the chilly weather returns to Portland. 7.75/10

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