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Inside Afuri’s New Ramen Manufactory and Restaurant in Portland’s Slabtown Neighborhood

Afuri Slabtown, which will serve as the chain’s local commissary, was designed to allow customers to peer inside the ramen-making process

A man in a black apron grabs pieces of thinly sliced pork at Afuri in Portland, Oregon.
Afuri CEO Taichi Ishizuki braises chashu pork at the new Slabtown location for the Tokyo-based ramen chain, set to open May 18.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

When Taichi Ishizuki was planning the first Afuri location in the United States, he chose Portland for its water: The city’s water, pulling from the Bull Run Watershed, was similar in taste and softness to the water of Mt. Afuri, the inspiration behind the original ramen restaurant. In the years since the first U.S. location opened in 2016, Afuri has grown substantially, both in Portland and in the rest of the country — people flock to the various izakayas and noodle bars for bowls of yuzu shio swirling with thin noodles and curls of endive. To keep up, Ishizuki decided to open a new Afuri location that serves as a sort of living museum, a commissary-meets-restaurant where customers can watch chefs extruding noodles and mixing dumpling filling.

“We have very few ramen shops making fresh noodles daily in the U.S.,” Ishizuki says. “The majority of the ramen shops are buying frozen noodles from Sun or Yamachan, from California or Hawaii or New Jersey. But we make our noodles. So this time, I want to make an Afuri Slabtown ‘ramenery,’ like a roastery.”

On Wednesday, May 18, Afuri Slabtown opens as both a restaurant and a culinary theater. Inside the restaurant, customers sit around an open format kitchen, sunken below the dining room floor so diners can watch chefs prepare bowls of ramen. Toward the back, 110-gallon kettles simmer at 90 degrees celsius, to help keep the flavor and clarity of the broths pristine; pork backs and spines bubble for six-to-eight hours for tonkotsu broth, while chicken carcasses and necks serve as the foundation for the restaurant’s chintan broth. Throughout the day, chefs add different aromatics at specific times, to help develop layers of flavor in each broth. In a glass room opposite the kitchen, cooks stir colossal bowls of pork dumpling filling, while chefs feed sheets of high-protein flour dough through a ramen noodle extruder. Here, customers are meant to ask questions, learn about the process, while sitting down to soft shell crab buns and braised pork gohan. Take a look inside the space before it opens below:

Blue neon text on the wall of Afuri Slabtown reads: “Little by little, day by day, bowl by bowl, always higher.”
Afuri CEO Taichi Ishizuki put his personal motto on the wall of the new Slabtown location for the Tokyo-based ramen chain.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Bottles of whiskey, gin, and vodka — both local and international — sit on the bar at Afuri Slabtown in Portland, Oregon.
Afuri’s Slabtown location hosts a full bar with sake, cocktails, and mocktails.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
White pine tables and bars line up around an open format kitchen at Afuri.
The dining room of the new Slabtown location of Afuri.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
New Slabtown location for Tokyo-based ramen chain Afuri on Monday, May 16, 2022
The banquette at Afuri splits the dining room, made with white oak that matches the tables.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Two hands grab a bundle of noodles at Afuri, next to a tray of other bundles.
Auggie Pakiser wraps together bundles of noodles from the extruder at Afuri Slabtown.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Two hands pinch nests of white noodles at Afuri.
Auggie Pakiser wraps together bundles of noodles at Afuri Slabtown. The noodles for all of the Portland-area Afuri locations are made at the Slabtown restaurant.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Two hands fill a bowl with endive at Afuri in Portland’s Slabtown neighborhood.
Executive Chef Chris Jenkins prepares a kakuni gohan bowl.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Executive Chef Chris Jenkins prepares yuzu shio ramen at the new Slabtown location for Tokyo-based ramen chain Afuri on Monday, May 16, 2022. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Executive Chef Chris Jenkins prepares yuzu shio ramen at the new Slabtown location for Tokyo-based ramen chain Afuri on Monday, May 16, 2022. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A man in an Afuri apron holds up ramen noodles over a bowl. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

Executive Chef Chris Jenkins prepares yuzu shio ramen.

A fried soft-shell crab comes with kimchi in a small bao bun, served on an Afuri-branded plate.
The crab bun at the new Slabtown location for Tokyo-based ramen chain Afuri.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Vegan gyoza at new Slabtown location for Tokyo-based ramen chain Afuri on Monday, May 16, 2022.
Vegan gyoza.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A bowl arrives filled with pork belly, bamboo, greens, and nori at Afuri in Slabtown.
A gohan bowl filled with kakuni, or braised pork belly.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A bowl of yuzu shio ramen at Afuri arrives filled with a soft-poached egg, greens, bamboo, nori, and a slice of chashu pork.
Yuzu shio ramen with chashu pork at Afuri Slabtown.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

Afuri Slabtown opens Wednesday, May 18, at 1650 NW 21st Avenue.

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