Portland Eats: Biwa

There’s so much food that I want to cover from my Portland trip!  I loved the diversity and range offered from this wonderful, laid back city.  Something this California girl loves even more is TAX FREE DINING.  That actually makes quite a difference in the total bill and results in a very affordable and savvy vacation.

I’ll try to round up the most memorable dining experiences from my trip.  Whenever you trek out to the City of Roses, you’ll have an idea of which places to hit up, skip, or splurge on.  And no, Voodoo Doughnuts will not appear on this round-up list.  However, my Yelp list details out my last visit to the Pacific Northwest a couple of years back, which does include the quite overrated donut shop.
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215 SE 9TH AVE

As any metropolitan city, food in Portland is diverse, which is a nice surprise given the city’s not-so-diverse population.  Asian restaurants, especially, are quite popular and the Portland natives are no strangers to authentic Asian spices, sauces, and cuisine.  I discovered that Biwa , a Japanese izakaya – with tapas-style dishes and a ramen joint, was headed by the Michigan native Gabe Rosen.  Eater 38 had listed Biwa as the number 7th top restaurant in the city to try and I was intrigued.

It’s my first night dining in Portland; the fog and lack of street lights upon crossing the bridge towards the East side of Portland makes finding Biwa a challenge.  We climb down the stairs into the cozy interior of the restaurant.  The warmth and smell of grilled meat and steaming ramen envelops us and I realize that I’m starving.  My cousin and I order and share a ramen with a few of the popular tapas dishes.

Biwa Interior & Ramen: shoyu egg and chasyu pork slices

The egg, which we were told was brined in shoyu sauce for quite some time, was wonderfully flavorful.  The noodles and broth were simple.  It wasn’t outstanding ramen, but it was nice for a cold night.


A nicely charred grilled rice ball – a simple starter.

Pork “Bara”: Pork Belly

Grilled pork belly on a skewer with a hint of lemon.  It tastes exactly as it appears and sounds: fatty.  It’s an interesting and simple dish, although a bit too chewy.  I like pork belly that’s more tender.

Kara-age- Japanese Style Fried Chicken

A tasty, staple dish I love to order at a Japanese izakaya.  It’s juicy and the crispy skin is slightly salty.  The dish is accompanied with various dips, one with a mayonnaise consistency and the other with a hint of horseradish.

Isobeyaki – grilled mochi and shoyu wrapped with nori

I loved the gummy and slight crispy texture of this dish.  The simple shoyu mixed with mochi, which I typically only eat with sweet dishes, was a nice surprise.  A must try!

With its late night hours (closes at midnight), Biwa is a satisfying option for late and light dining.  Its varied menu is simple and the ingredients and flavors stay true to a Japanese izakaya.  While not a huge must-try, I do see it as a comfortable go-to spot or if you are in the area.  Not bad Chef Rosen from Michigan!  The price is also pretty humble: $32 for two.

Biwa on Urbanspoon

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