When it opened in 2016, Portland’s first Marukin location was a big deal. It was the Japanese brand’s first location in the United States, making traditional, porky tonkotsu. Head chef Mayumi Hijikata moved to the United States to open the restaurant, switching between broths day-to-day. The Japanese Marukin locations ran as usual, and Portland’s two Marukin locations stood as their own outposts on the other side of the Pacific.
Years later, the Portland ramen shops are stepping out on their own. Marukin’s two Portland locations — on SE Ankeny and within Pine Street Market — are now separate from the original Japanese chain, and go by a new name: Kinboshi Ramen.
The decision to separate was twofold: The Portland ramen shops were becoming more and more distinct from the original locations in Japan, and when COVID-19 hit, holding on to locations in multiple countries became even more difficult. “Back in Japan, there was such a focus on that Hakata-style tonkotsu. But here, we have been stepping out a little bit, trying things like vegan ramen,” says owner David Rademacher, who was one of the original co-owners when Marukin first opened in Portland. “And then, with world events and how things are going in Japan and here... [Marukin] really had to spend all their energy and funds on their businesses in Japan.”
Those who have been eating at the restaurants over the last year and a half have probably seen things start to shift over time: The menu now has more ramen options every day, as well as an assortment of donburi and Tebasaki chicken wings. Those sorts of shifts will continue on under the new name, as the menu continues to expand; chef Mayumi Hijikata, who will stay on at Kinboshi, is toying with the idea of adding bento the menu, and has recently added a summery vegan hiyashi ramen made with hazelnut milk. However, the foundational recipes that made Marukin such a hit — including the original tonkotsu — will remain on the menu.
“We want to make sure that everyone who was a fan of Marukin knows it’s the same group, with much of the same recipes. We’re just expanding on that,” Rademacher says. “There’s more to come, we just need to get it right.”
Both Kinboshi locations are open for takeout, with outdoor dining at the SE Ankeny location.
• Kinboshi [Official]
• 10 Reasons Why Marukin’s Opening Is Big News for Ramenheads [EPDX]