The day after Miyagi Ramen's grand opening, I made sure to park myself outside of the restaurant around 10:30 a.m., half an hour prior to opening time. I wanted to be the first one in on their second day open to get a feel for the most anticipated new restaurant in Central Oregon this summer. Typically, it's fair to allow a brand-new business, especially in the hospitality industry, to work out the kinks and acquire a flow before coming in to do a review. However, I was eager to see the menu and check out their decor; I decided that this visit would be strictly for pleasure and I'd come back in a few weeks to assess the food. Luckily, I didn't need more than that first visit to be convinced of the monolith that Miyagi is sure to be for our restaurant scene.
Head chef and partner, George Morris, saw an opportunity and missing link in Central Oregon for true ramen cuisine and jumped at the chance to feature Bend's only ramen-focused establishment.
"We saw the space at The Box Factory and just knew—this place was made for a restaurant like this," says Morris. In fact, ramen was in the cards almost before Bos Taurus, where Morris is also head chef and a managing partner. After spending months in Tokyo for ramen research and development, Morris headed back to the U.S. to design Miyagi's small-yet-complex menu. "We wanted our ramen to be as authentic as possible, while still serving our demographic here in Oregon," he says. "We wanted it to be approachable."
Having 30 minutes to gaze over the menu, I settled on the Spicy Miso. It's made with a red miso base, chili oil, Chashu pork and Togarashi cured pork belly. Then it's topped with spicy minced pork and garnish with wilted bean sprouts and scallions. If you're into eggs in your savory dishes, I strongly suggest the addition of a soft egg. This added just enough of a reprieve from the heat and umami essence at the end of each slurp.
If ramen isn't your thing, choose from any of the items on the 'Not Ramen' menu, including chicken katsu steamed buns and watermelon and pork belly salad. Having tried the chicken katsu and tempura miatake mushroom steamed buns (twice), I can attest to them being just as piquant and satisfying as any of their ramen bowls. You can choose from a variety of Japanese cocktails, sake, and beer to accommodate your meal.
Miyagi resides in a small building on the edge of The Box Factory on Industrial Way. The large roll-up doors, which usually remain open, show off the interior of the industrial building with a floor-to-ceiling painted mural. A few tables are available for outdoor seating, but the space feels like a hybrid of indoor and outdoor seating with its open-concept layout, shared bar tables and outdoor exposure. The meat and produce is locally sourced as often as possible, with Pacific Northwest-raised chicken and pork, and organically grown produce.
After three years living in Bend, Morris has certainly made a name for himself in the culinary arena. He moved from Telluride, Colorado, to help open and cook for Bos Taurus and shortly thereafter, brought Miyagi's concept to life. Inspired by Julia Child's rendition of coq au vin, Morris realized that cooking wasn't just about eating, it was about enjoying. "It wasn't until my mother took me to a French restaurant, after I expressed interest in cooking, that I started to understand that cooking wasn't just something that your mom or dad did to feed you—it was a career."
Running, operating, and cooking for two restaurants is hardly an easy task, and Morris attributes his ability to stay effective, efficient and maintain a healthy workflow to his staff. "Between Bos Taurus and Miyagi, we have a great staff. All of our owners are hands-on operators; without the great people of our staff, we wouldn't be able to do this—I could never be this successful without them." The Bos/Miyagi team has more up their sleeves—but you'll have to stay tuned for the new concept that Morris and his affiliates are currently working on. For now, his lips are sealed.