Long time, no post! The holidays have been a pretty wild ride so far, so I'm sorry for the lack of blog posts! But I finally had a free minute to sit down and gush about something I've been meaning to gush over for a long time: NOODS! (Ramen, more specifically)
Ramen is a fairly recent phenomenon for Portland. With Pai Men Miyake opening in 2010, focusing primarily on ramen with their menu, they were the first real purveyors of ramen proper in town. Though I think it wouldn't be fair not to mention Bubble Maineia, which opened in 2007, with a focus on Asian Fusion dishes such as noodle soups, steam buns, and most famously, boba. While there was no ramen on the menu explicitly, their noodle dishes have always been generous, authentic, and affordable. Then of course there is Anju Noodle Bar in Kittery, which opened its doors in 2014 to an eclectic menu of ramen dishes and other Japanese fare. It wasn't until 2015 that Portland would be blessed with a certain Noodle Master, and his affinity for handmade noodles that would absolutely blow me away.
I bolted through the doors of Ramen Suzukiya when I heard it had finally opened. Before that day, I'd never had ramen before. Only heard about it in legend, whispers of it on the approaching foodie winds. So needless to say, I'm honored that my first bite of ramen was prepared by Noodle Master Kei. Owner and founder of Suzukiya, along with his son, Cory Suzuki, Kei was born in Hokkaido, Japan and after immigrating to America and having a long, successful career with a Japanese television company in New York City, retired and moved to Portland to begin the process of opening up a ramen shop. All the noodles were made by hand, every bowl prepared with care. Suzukiya was a bit ahead of its time, but a more than welcome addition to a budding food scene that would act as the catalyst by which other restaurants would begin introducing ramen to their menus.
Needless to say, the Noodle Master passed away in November of 2018, and Ramen Suzukiya has closed its doors. But I'm thankful for all the delicious bowls of noodles I ate, and for Kei, who chose to settle in our little coastal city of all places to bring us something truly special. I'm thankful that Ramen Suzukiya was my introduction into ramen, and even with the recent boom in the ramen trend with a number of restaurants around Portland offering the savory Japanese dish, that first bowl of shoyu ramen will always be #1 in my opinion. Thank you for everything, Noodle Master Kei! 頂きます!
Where to slurp some tasty noods in Maine:
Pai Men Miyake, Portland
Crunchy Poke, Portland
Honey Paw, Portland
Genji (Whole Foods), Portland
Empire Chinese Kitchen, Portland
Ten Ten Pie, Portland
Anju Noodle Bar, Kittery
Long Grain, Camden
The Buxton Common, Buxton
Umami Noodle Bar, Bangor
Hunker Down, Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley