When the popular sandwich shop "Shut Up and Eat" closed last March at 3848 S.E. Gladstone, in Creston-Kenilworth, many in Southeast Portland felt they had lost a neighborhood asset.The restaurant gave no explanation for its closing; but now the space is once again occupied by an eatery.
The new establishment is called "Hapa PDX", and opened in early August. Hapa is a Japanese-Hawaiian restaurant, specializing in authentic ramen dishes – made using Japanese methods, and Hawaiian and Asian ingredients.
This is the first brick and mortar location for "Hapa PDX"; formerly, Hapa's specialty ramen bowls were served from a food cart. In 2013 Hapa took over the "Shut Up and Eat" food cart location on SE Division and 52st when "Shut up and Eat" moved to the storefront on Gladstone Street.
The "Hapa PDX" food cart then went to S.E. 28th and Division for four years, followed by a year on N.E. Halsey at 60th Avenue. Now it has followed "Shut Up and Eat" into this fixed location.
As for the name – "Hapa" means "half," and "Hapa PDX" co-owners Michael and Sarah Littman tell THE BEE they've named their business "Hapa" because they are culturally "half and half", each one having one parent that is Asian and one that is Caucasian. They were born and raised in Hawai'i and their food is inspired by their respective cultures.
The Littmans have been in Portland since 2004, and have lived in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood for 2½ years. They had been looking for a permanent restaurant location in Southeast Portland for quite a while; they searched Division Street for eighteen months, but found nothing.
When "Shut Up and Eat" closed on S.E. Gladstone in March, the Littmans and five other entrepreneurs presented proposals to the landlord. Shortly afterward, "Hapa PDX" was chosen to be the new business there. They again will be inhabiting a former "Shut Up and Eat" location – just a happy coincidence.
The Gladstone space is relatively close to the Littmans' home and to the three schools that their children attend.
Michael has overseen renovation of the kitchen, but says that fortunately it was left in good shape by its former occupant. He is proud of the specialty woods and materials that they have used. The restaurant has an open kitchen and a stainless steel hood over the range, so customers can watch their food being prepared and cooked.
In addition to the ramen dishes, there is a permanent menu as well as a seasonal menu. All ingredients are local, say the Littmans – proteins from local farms; fish from the Oregon coast; local and sea-based vegetables and spices. They will serve their award- winning house broth and chicken bone broth with different kinds of ramen.
A recent vegan, Michael is designing a vegan menu, including a ramen in a miso broth, prepared in the seitan-katsu method of cooking. And there will be poke made with albacore tuna, salmon, or yellow fin tuna, because, as Michael says, "In Hawai'i we eat poke every day."
Sarah, who was a Fine Art major at New York University (sculpture and ceramics), is "good with her hands, and in the kitchen", and has designed the main menus. In Portland she was professionally trained by Japanese Ramen Chef Nakazawa. Sarah will be the head chef at "Hapa PDX".
"It [chef training] was a long and demanding process, and she almost quit; but it has paid off. It took three days of cooking to make a perfect broth!" relates Michael, who adds that the "Hapa PDX" kitchen is very clean because of the cleanliness techniques Sarah learned from her Master Chef.
As for what to wash it all down with – Michael has been good friends for years with Portland whiskey guru Stuart Ramsey and is excited to have Ramsey's whiskey as well as local Momokawa sake from Hillsboro and beer brewed in Japan paired with ramen dishes and agi tofu. In addition to the special ale, sake, and whiskey, and guava and lychee infused cocktails, Happy Hours will also include iced tea, hot tea, house guava, and lychee soda.
For more information on the new restaurant, go online – www.hapaPDX.us
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