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All the Flavors

Northwest-Japanese fusion shines at Chomp Chomp

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Not too many secret spots are left in downtown Bend where you can just roll in and fill yourself with incredible food and beverages without reservations. But for these last few months I've been selfish and absolutely devastated by all the food and adult beverages at my favorite downtown happy hour without having to fight my way to a table, throwing elbows at tourists and locals alike. But it's time. I'm blowing up the spot. If you're not enjoying the happy hour and dinner at Chomp Chomp, then your FOMO meter should be exploding.

The stickiest wings. - PHOTO BY JARED RASIC
  • Photo by Jared Rasic
  • The stickiest wings.

Chomp Chomp opens at 3pm and for the next two hours serves what I think is legitimately the best happy hour in downtown. Then at 5pm, the whole menu opens up with some of the most exciting and diverse dishes in town. Since I am a science man, I decided the only fair thing to do was to get to Chomp Chomp at 3:30pm, eat everything on the happy hour menu until 5pm and then dive into the dinner menu. I don't necessarily recommend everyone eat as much as I did, but also it's something you should absolutely do.

But what is Chomp Chomp, you ask? Well, I'll tell you! On the surface it's a fusion restaurant, bridging New Northwestern Cuisine with classic Asian dishes, but it isn't just fusing the culinary traditions of different countries and cultures; it's also combining flavors like a kitchen full of mad scientists. I'll get into it.

First of all, my favorite alcoholic beverage on the happy hour menu is the "Hot Girl Summer" (I'm good with it), a mango margarita with house-infused spicy tequila and Tajín all over the rim. I never thought spicy mango was a flavor I needed, but now it's all I can think about. If you are a fan of coconut, the "One Night in Bangkok" mixes your favorite fruit/nut/seed with a deeply spicy vodka and lime, creating a sweet and spicy explosiveness I've legit never tasted. And don't even get me started on the "Gin n' Juniper" which combines flawless Crater Lake Gin, blackberries, juniper, cardamom and tonic with a beautifully fragrant piece of smoking rosemary.

Happy hour ramen. - PHOTO BY JARED RASIC
  • Photo by Jared Rasic
  • Happy hour ramen.

For my (sort-of) hard-earned dollars, there's no better way to spend $5 than the happy hour bowl of Karaage fried chicken bites. Delicately coated and breaded and dipped in Chomp Chomp's outstanding miso mayo, this is my go-to snack downtown from now on. This is your new obsession. If you disagree, you can mail your uneaten Karaage to me care of the Source Weekly.

The flash-fried Brussels sprouts are topped with a delicious lemon sesame dressing, pickled carrots and yucca strips. The Tonkatsu sandwich and Chicken Katsu Sandwich are massive, with ingredients so fresh that my mouth is watering just thinking about them. The Katsu has a cider slaw on it that is so complex I'm not sure I even know how to describe the flavor profile.

But...BUT...the Sticky Wings shall become legendary. Just look at the picture. Imagine that first bite, where the smokiness of the fry combines with the light heat of the sweetness of the Japanese and the Northwestern heartiness of locally sourced chicken.

Chomp Chomp's happy hour half bowl of Ramen is $10 when a bowl of the same size and lesser quality elsewhere would be double the price. A bowl of ramen, downtown, for $10. It's a whole new world.

After happy hour ended and I tried all of the things, I had me another "Hot Girl Summer" and ordered the Chomp-fuu Hiroshima-fuu, a spinoff of the staple Okonomiyaki (basically a Japanese pancake). The Hiroshima version of Okonomiyaki is stuffed with more cabbage than the Osaka version and Chomp Chomp seamlessly fuses the classic preparation with New Northwestern protein preparation for a dish unlike anything I've ever tasted. Basically, it's the pancake topped with crispy, braised pork belly, covered in Yakisoba noodles and drenched in secret sauce.

What makes Chomp Chomp a remarkable addition to the Central Oregon food scene is that they're not just fusing regions and countries dishes, they're actually fusing flavors in ways I haven't tasted before. The complexity of the sticky wings comes from a fearless tightrope walk of spicy, savory and sweet. The Okonomiyaki takes the deceptive simplicity of the pancake and adds smoke, heat and tang. Every single dish is an explosion of not just flavors, but ideas. Chomp Chomp is pushing food forward into areas not normally explored in the Northwest. See what they're doing. It's special.

Chomp Chomp

945 NW Bond St., Bend

chompchomp-bend.com

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.

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