Marukin is an authentic Japanese ramen house, the first of the chain to open in the United States, right here in Portland, Oregon. As they are open for lunch, I had to stop in to give it a try. It’s purported to be some of the best ramen on earth. It’s a big, hairy deal according to Eater PDX, with these 10 Reasons Why Ramenheads are Excited About Marukin Ramen.
The location at 609 SE Ankeny St., next door to Nong’s Khao Man Gai is not a place to easily drive to and park. If you work or live in the area or take the streetcar, that’s another thing. But the two places next door to each other makes it a destination for people who want Asian comfort food.
I ordered the standard Tokyo Shoyu: Clear chicken and Carlton Farms pork bone broth base with shoyu. It had a nice bunch of veggies on top. I also got a side of their chicken karaage (4 pieces, small) Japanese-style fried chicken.
The noodles and broth are handmade with care. You get chopsticks and a spoon, but are encouraged to slurp away. You order at the counter and they deliver to the table, with a minimal wait. The staff seemed friendly and helpful. Most of the tables are made for sharing, and there are long counters to eat at as well.
All of this would be great if I loved ramen. As I’ve previously discovered with ramen and pho, I just don’t understand the attraction. I might like the spicy varieties I see they had on the weekend. But the Tokyo Shoyu would be a big, satisfying bowl of comfort noodles if you were a ramen fan.
The chicken karaage had a nice crisp coating that tasted mostly of garlic to me. I preferred what I’ve had at Noraneko and Boke Bowl. I have decided that it is verified that I am a ramen Philistine. I’m a big-flavor gal. I’ve never been a fan of noodle soup in any cultural cuisine. I am probably in the minority on this. All the better for true ramen fans as I won’t be blocking them from their nirvana.
I am not writing this as a bad review, more as an admission that I gave it a shot and I’m just not a fan of ramen, no matter how excellent. You should give it a try, they will also be opening in the new Pine Street Market in May.
For the final day of the Barcelona international Portland Food Adventure, we had the day free until dinner at Tickets Bar, one of Albert Adrià’s restaurants, a mecca of modernist cuisine rated as one of the top restaurants in the world. Also, almost impossible to get a reservation for!
PFA leader Chris Angelus clued us in on the guided Sagrada Familia tour, enabling you to skip the long lines. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, photos just don’t do this amazing basilica any justice. It was well worth the time and a highlight of the trip.
The medallions on the pillars remind me of Kosh in Babylon 5.
OK, I just don’t get the parachuting Jesus over the altar. Really, it looks like a Victorian lampshade.
I make fun, but really it is a tour de force and I love it.
Now for the final Portland Food Adventures dinner in Barcelona. Famed modernist cuisine master Albert Adrià opened Tickets to be kind of a neighborhood elBulli. It’s a fun place, they have fun with the food. We got a signed copy of Albert Adrià’s Tapas Ticket Cuisine cookbook.
You don’t get more as a foodie than this, and reservations are booked up for months. It was only through the connections of Chef Jose and Portland Food Adventures that we scored this coup.
I still fit into the skinny dress, that’s a good sign we did lots of walking. I bought the scarf in Barcelona at a shop.
Time for tickets.
The famous olives that aren’t in their original formulation.
Some typical tapas to lure us in.
And then it gets weird, but tasty. Summer tree with cherry, solid cocktail with watermelon, blackcurrant churros with railfort cream, etc. Nothing in its original form. That’s why Albert Adrià is the best in the world.
They wouldn’t tell us what this was until after we ate it. I was afraid it was elvers (baby eels), but instead it was noodles made from mushrooms, and quite good.
And then you have mushrooms made of mushrooms, but not in their original form.
Back to real food, maybe, for all I know this was actually chicken.
I believe this really is steak, from the Rubia Gallega breed, with airbaguettes.
Really, really good.
Overall, excellent dinner although we had so many fantastic dinners that I can’t rate it as better than two or three others. The crowded dining room didn’t help for ambiance. Too Portland, LOL!
That was it for the planned adventure, we had gotten in early to Tickets and so we had time to make it to the Dry Martini Bar and get what should be the perfect dry martini. It’s ranked among the World’s Best Bars.
This establishment is by star bartender Javier de las Muelas. The staff are tuxedoed and it is a very posh club atmosphere. See that LED number above the bartender? That’s the number of certified dry martinis they have served. It is about to go up by one.
Bombay Sapphire is always my gin of choice for a martini. The Dry Martini Bar agrees.
And here it is. It’s good, very good. But I still like my husband’s better. He makes it a little dirty with olive brine.
And so I get a certificate!
Bottom line on Portland Food Adventure Barcelona:
Worth every penny. Chef Jose Chesa was always wonderful, helpful, and awesomely in love with Barcelona, its food, its traditions. His access to the chefs made this unique, something you just can’t buy separately. If you haven’t eaten at his restaurant in Portland, Ataula, you need to go. I went twice more after returning from Barcelona and I’d say he matches anything we had in his native city!
Chris Angelus did a great job with this first international outing. There were very few bobbles, just as many (or fewer) than I’ve encountered on group trips with seasoned tour operators. That’s part of travel.
The other participants were a fun and welcoming group of varied ages and interests. It was great to meet them and they were excellent dining companions. The common denominator is that we all loved food. We were a very easy group to serve – no allergies, no restrictions, just bring it on and we’ll skip things if want to.
I thought the hotel was great for amenities and service and being centrally located, but I wish it had been in a more scenic area.
We had a good mix of free time and programmed time. This was only a culinary tour, any sightseeing was done on our own. I found there was enough time for that and our location made it easy to get to where I wanted to go. Not only on foot, but also taxis were immediately available, as was the metro.
We returned to La Boqueria to its demo kitchen on Day 6 of the Barcelona trip with Portland Food Adventures. We enjoyed a 6-hour cooking class/demonstration with Chef Oliver Pena Luque. He is has been/is/will be chef at the restaurants in Albert Adria’s modernist cuisine empire. Past was 41 Degrees, now he is at Tickets Bar where we would dine the next day, and he should be opening the new Enigma in the future.
We were up close and personal for the demonstration. As a lab professional, I appreciate the chemistry as well as the artistry of modernist techniques. But beyond making beautiful and playful transformations, I love real flavors.
It was a class for any foodie to attend, and we went home with the full instructions, should I ever decide to turn my kitchen into a lab.
Our dinner for the evening was at 8:30 pm at La Taverna del Clinic. The chef was another old friend of Jose Chesa, Antonio Simoes. This was a very impressive meal with many modernist twists, all packed with flavor.
This was one of my favorites.
Such big mussels you have!
That’s potato on top.
It was a delicious day, I would have liked to join with the rest of the group who were going on for drinks and dancing, since we hadn’t walked much. But a cab was available and somehow I ended up in it with a couple of others and back to the hotel.
The only item on our itinerary for this day was entry to the Degusta culinary show. It was election day, with a successionist mandate at stake, and much of the city shut down.
Most of our group opted out of going to the show, only three of us went. Word had gotten out that you had to pay for anything you wanted to eat there (with just a few samples). I was happy I went, although mostly for the beer and then walking up the hill to see the sights.
We toured the show, which had a many exhibits of fancy cakes and what it takes to make them. I don’t watch Cake Boss, so this wasn’t of much interest to me.
I do love me some ham, though, so I bought a bocadito of the top quality pata negra.
The food truck craze was being featured, just one more way Portland and Barcelona are similar, yet different. They had over 20 of them at the show.
But I was happiest about the Barcelona Beer Show. I’m not a fan of Spain’s Estrella beer, it’s too bland and unhopped for me. But I found brewers here who are happily making West Coast-style IPA. In fact, when I got a glass of the Further Westward IPA and said I liked it, they gave me a free bottle. As it is aggressively hopped and this is the last day of the show, I figured most people didn’t like it and they were happy to give a bottle to someone who did.
I stood in line for the free paella, the beer had enough alcohol content that I needed to cool my jets anyway.
Now I walked up Montjuic, past the Magic Fountains to the site of the 1929 World Expo. I sat to rest and actually took a little nap.
Heading back towards my hotel, I passed by Tickets Bar, the Adria restaurant whose chef would give us a cooking class the next day and where we dine at the end of the week.
Then I walked Rick Steves’ Eixample walking tour, seeing the modernist buildings in daylight. It was very nice.
This would prove to be an exhausting day for our Barcelona Portland Food Adventures group, starting with breakfast at 7 am at famed Pinoxto in La Boqueria. You may have seen this guy, Juan, featured in Rick Steves’ visit. He’s a classic.
Chef Jose Chesa, our food guide from Portland’s Ataula restaurant, ensured we enjoyed samples of their best seafood and tortillas. We ate in two shifts.
After breakfast and wandering the Boqueria, I followed Rick Steves’ walking guide and toured the Cathedral of Barcelona in more detail. I think this was also the day I visited the Picasso Museum (no photos allowed inside) and the El Born district, which has wonderful shops.
I had plenty of time to reach Xiringuito Escribà for our paella lunch on the beach, although once I was in the vicinity it wasn’t that easy to find the exact spot. This is the problem when you don’t have a data plan for your smartphone in Europe. Chris had provided a good map with our destinations circled, but I still logged some extra steps.
It was great to see the beach and a relief to find the restaurant right on time.
We were seated with open air access to the beach views and enjoyed a traditional paella lunch that was quite satisfying.
At this point of the day, a wise person would have taken a cab to our next destination, a demonstration/lecture by famed Chef ChristianEscribà. But some of us weren’t that smart. We had a lot of calories to burn off, anyway. But the walk there gave some folks more blisters.
We didn’t really know what to expect of the “pastry workshop” listed for 4 pm. It turned out to be a tour of this modern-day Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a slideshow by the man himself, Christian Escribà. This was definitely the sort of access to culinary superstars that made this trip a true food adventure.
We learned about his innovations, including cake walls. I want a cake wall.
Can I have this cake wall for my next birthday?
We had a bonus dinner scheduled for 10:30 pm. Some of our group opted out, as it had already been a massive day. But I was happy that I went (which contributed to the 31,300 steps for the day). On the way I saw a couple of the famed Gaudi-designed buildings.
The Tuset Restaurant‘s chef trained with Jose Chesa. I enjoyed the food very much, especially the peppery beef croquettes.
Our third day of the Barcelona international tour with Portland Food Adventures took us out into the countryside to the Michelin-starred restaurant where our guide Chef Jose Chesa (of Portland’s Ataula) worked before coming to the USA.
Can Jubany is a glorious example of slow food and not only locally-sourced but mostly grown right on the property. Chef Nandu Jubany is an international star of slow food and farm-to-table cuisine, with modernist touches.
We started our visit with a tour of the kitchen garden, farmhouse and chicken coops. Jose translated as Chef Francesc Arumi described how they rotate the crops continuously to provide the ingredients for the dishes. It was very impressive. The restaurant itself is in a restored country house.
While I could have visited this marvelous place on my own, it was priceless to get a tour from an insider. We also got a tour through the kitchen to see our first appetizer assembled.
The dining areas of Can Jubany looked peaceful compared with the noisy industrial settings for most Portland restaurants. We had a separate room for our group with a tastefully set table. Each course was paired with wine.
These first two appetizers had definite modernist twists.
I love pumpkin gnocchi. The service was perfect, as you would expect at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
It seems we always had to have some foie gras.
This lovely caterpillar appears on the Can Jubany web site, too.
That’s what the chickens were up to out in the coop.
The Spanish classic dish, with unusual seafood.
And now we got a flood of desserts
Quote of the day from Jose, “Modern is good, but if you go too far you miss the point.”
I’m pretty happy still by the end of the meal.
Anna says Nandu married her for her stomach size.
Many of us considered this day to be the highlight of the trip, it was wonderful.
But with the bus ride too and from, I got in almost no walking. I had to make up at least 30 minutes of exercise on the exercise bike in our hotel to make my Apple Watch meet that daily goal. But it was one of the few days in the past year I didn’t get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.
This was good as some of our group had blisters from the walking the previous day. And we all far made up the missed steps the next day, in which I logged over 31,000 steps, as much as a half marathon.