Biwa – Portland
When Chris and Anne heard we were izakaya fans, they insisted we sample the fare at Biwa. And we tried. The first time was the night the kitchen god was testing our mettle. It was raining, Anne was hangry after a long frustrating day, her umbrella broke, and the Biwa was totally full. But we were determined people and came back on our last night in Portland and we rewarded for our patience. While very little of the dining menu actually appeared to be izakaya food, it had late open hours, food was served on small plates and it was very good.
We started with pickles and drinks, to whet our appetites. The sake and shochu cocktail list was impressive and inventive, also tasty. I love asian booze, so my shochu tom collins was more enjoyable than a proper TC.
Small bites: shio-yaki saba – salt grilled mackerel and grated daikon. Then kara-age. That means friiiiiiied chicken.
The skewers are more typical of street food, and are a fabulous deal at this restaurant with hanger steak, pork belly, oyster mushrooms, chicken liver yakitori, all around $3/skewer.
We also had the bacon chahan (fried rice) and seaweed salad with lotus root (above). And korokke (curried pork and potato croquette), and something nobody remembers, but it was probably a kind of pancake (below).
Biwa added its own Portland twist by serving robust but tender lamb ribs. Again, not typical izakaya, but still delicious and we gobbled those down to the bone.
Price per head worked out to $40 before tip. Considering the group was its own definition of kimchi (i.e. well pickled), this was cheap eats and drinks. And thankfully, they have a cocktail using umeboshi, and can also offer a simple campari and soda. Cuz we needed the digestives after all that rich nosh.
Biwa (Central eastside, SE)