Biwa Restaurant
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The Best Happy Hour in Portland, OR: Biwa
I love love love Biwa. I came here twice, that’s how much I loved it. Not even a five minute walk from the Jupiter Hotel, this place has one of the best happy hours I’ve ever had. Not on their website, their happy hour consists of pork, chicken and hangar steak skewers, all for $2 each. I also had a garlic skewer, a nice accompaniment to the meat for $2. Their drinks are $1 off so I paired it with a Sapporo for $3. Though they are known for their ramen (which you can get during their late night happy hour menu after 9 p.m.), their vegetables are fantastic. They grilled corn and paired it with a miso sauce; they also had a lovely watermelon salad that I devoured. Incredible value, friendly staff and fun cooks who are very focused on their craft.
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Pacific Rim Revisited
Dropping into the cellar space at Biwa puts you in the middle of an izakaya that could be anywhere in Tokyo. Dark and small but spacious, you enter a world far from the streets outside the door. The pace can have a frenetic feel yet still be relaxed and casual. The decor is basement-centric with the bar as a focal point. Everything happens behind the bar, making the food and drink as accessible to watch as it is to consume. Staff are smart, quick, and never in short supply. The offerings are traditional izakaya small plates and soups. The oysters are always a first stop for me and a great gauge for the freshness meter; the Tillamooks came with a delicately delicious baste in tow to light up the sweet meat. After short work, more followed with a seasonal salad of apple and squash that comfortably bridged any gap between fruit and vegetable. The menu, while not huge, is diverse. Mackerel is a staple in Japan and the collar is cooked to perfection at Biwa. The noodles are a primary element in any izakaya lineup, and the udon bowl capped our cruise through the offerings. The drinks focus on the traditional sake, which is graded using the Japanese method. Order a flight with picks from each grading class to get a crash course in sake prowess. Cocktails are also turning Japanese with the infusion of Nippon spirits. There is a secret, late-night burger, served after 10pm during the week and 11 on weekends. Skip the sleep and stay up to be amazed.
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