Most of my "Go Here, Eat This" posts focus on places in Boston. Today I'm going to encourage you to take a little trip. If you wanted to find genuine ramen, farm-fresh ingredients, locally raised, organic meats; if you wanted to discover the joy of true yakitori seared over binchotan coal; if you craved a new local oyster you're not going to find at your local Boston raw bar; you could take a trip to Japan.
Or, you could take a short road-trip North of Boston to Portland, Maine.
It is so worth the drive...Here's why...Pai Men Miyake.
It's a terrific local spot that features farm fresh produce and meats. As in THEIR farm. Really, how can you improve on that for sourcing?
See that fire on the stove on the right there? That's intentional. It's Binchotan coal. We'll get to that in a moment. First, we had to try the pork buns because the meat comes from pigs they raise. Besides, who doesn't want to start with pork buns?
I was delighted to find that two oysters were offered and one of them I'd not only never had, I'd never heard of. John's River Oysters are from the local river. Pemaquids we do see from time to time here. Housemade cocktails and mocktails were excellent as well. I also tried a local microbrew that was fine to accompany the yakitori.
Binchotan is a very special compressed "white" Japanese charcoal that burns extremely hot and evenly. It is precisely the type of coal one needs to produce proper Yakitori. Mad proper, yo. Too often some insipid chicken on a skewer slathered in teriyaki sauce passes for Yaktori. 'Tis an abomination, I tell you! Yakitori is perhaps the Japanese version of Nose-to-Tail whole beast cookery, taking many bits of different animals often the ones discarded and turning them into enticing little bites on skewers. I could make a meal of them.
- Kawa - Crispy chicken skin - what's not to love.
- Bonjiri - Chicken tail - the fat and crispy skin bonus bite.
- Butabara - Pork belly - easy to love.
- Motsu - Pork intestine - amazing, the slightest earthiness gives a hint of its origins but really appealing and yes, delicious.
- Gyu tan - Beef tongue - tender in a way that the tongue in a deli sandwich hopes to be.
And finally, the noodles. This is the thing we came for. I had been whining about the lack of proper ramen in Boston. I'm excited we may finally be getting a ramen-ya in Porter Square (I know there's the food court inside the Porter Exchange, but I cannot queue up for an hour for ramen. Constitutionally incapable.)
The middle bowl is kake soba. Konbu and shiitake broth. The dark green is wakame, a sea vegetable and scallion. The broth was so umami-rich, I nearly asked to switch.
I ordered the house ramen pai tan ramen is a pork and chicken broth. That's a slice of their home grown pork belly, a soy-marinated egg that hovered in creamy deliciousness between poached and hard boiled. Crispy sheaf of nori. This dish took me straight back to Tokyo. Actually, for the second time. The yakitori had me recalling my trip to Japan maybe 15 years ago now. I ventured out one night on my own and ended up in an Izakaya style restaurant that specialized in yakitori. The only thing that would have made that night any better would have been to share it with someone.
Well, at least we now have each other, Doc. And, thanks to your sleuthiness, we have Pai Men Miyake. Can't wait to go back!
Pai men Miyake
188 State St, Portland, Maine Tel: 207-541-9204
Monday-Saturday 12pm-12am Sunday 12pm-10pm