Thursday, March 03, 2011
I Came, I Saw, I Bowled
Pop-up books. Pop-up stores. And now pop-up restaurants. Combine that with the recent craze for ramen noodles and you've got Boke Bowl, the brainchild of Brannon Riceci and blogger Patrick Fleming.
We're not talking about the ramen you remember from your college days when ten packages of those dried, curly noodles cost a buck and you could cook them up in the percolator in your dorm room. And forget that super-salty, chemical-laden "broth" from a little foil packet.
Pacific NW Cheese Project, Tami Parr, and I only half-jokingly asked if we could each get a quart of it to go. Its heat was cooled by the agua frescas (above left), though it was tempting to try a (for me, nap-inducing) cocktail from Oba's terrific-sounding bar menu.
Apparently the Brussels sprout salad, warm Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, blood orange and house tofu croutons with Thai vinaigrette, was amazing judging from the sighs coming from nearby tables, but after the chips and buns, and knowing that a couple of big bowls of soup were on the way, we decided that in this case discretion was the better part of valor.
The last-Monday-of-the-month schedule, posted at the last minute on the website, happens at a rotating list of local restaurants. Past event locations have included Bijou Café, Cruzroom and the Globe, all at night, the one I attended at Oba being the first lunch the team had attempted. While this kind of schedule provides its fans an element of eager anticipation with a whiff of exclusiveness, it also makes it a challenging way to run a restaurant.
Patrick and Brannon only have a skeleton crew themselves, relying on the kitchen staff at the event location to put out the bulk of the food on the day of service. For the most part these are dishes that the line staff has never made (or seen) before. Plus the abbreviated schedule and throngs of fans being seated all at once means that mistakes can happen, like my first bowl of soup arriving after a significant wait and sans the requisite ramen. When the lack of the main ingredient was pointed out, a new bowl was quickly provided (and I wasn't charged for it). Also, some of the noodles were initially clumped together in a mass that required some work to untangle.
Overall, though, it was a fun and, yes, exciting experience, and if a rumored permanent location for this experiment-in-a-bowl does materialize, any problems with consistency should disappear with the addition of a permanent staff. Until then, though, you'll have to monitor their website and go knowing that the unexpected is always lurking in the wings.
Details: Boke Bowl. Last Monday of the month pop-up event. Monitor the website for next location.