Portland >Restaurants > Biwa
215 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR | Directions 9721445.520936 -122.656977
Neighborhoods: Buckman, Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Program
Just blocks away from Burnside Biwa always feels like a hidden (while still very popular) gem to me. Tucked in a moody basement in south-east Portland it's the perfect stop for cocktails, a lite bite or a feeding frenzy.
The craft cocktails are stellar as are the housemade kimchi, grilled trout, fried mackerel, goat curry and generous bowls of pork ramen.
Specials may include a burger (with miso), but the rest of the menu is truly traditional Japanese sans sushi. The cocktails are as craft as they come, and strong too.
While Asian food from all countries and cuisines runs rampant in Portland (why is every Thai restaurant title a pun?), Biwa's menu implores you to acknowledge that not every Japanese dish is sushi. Ask the waiter about everything on the menu and don't hesitate to try something new.
Hip little downstairs hot spot serving up steaming bowls and delicious small plates. This is a cozy neighborhood favorite where there aren't a whole lot of options nearby for Asian food.I LOVED my dish. Service was decent, place consistently packed. Great for dates, but a little fussy for old folks, and though people bring children, it's not a kid place. Love the music everything was great.
HORRIBLE SERVICE! – We had a large party and gave the excuse that we were more then they expected. But the waitresses were RUDE and UNACCOMODATING. They made everyone feel unconfortable and made the experience terrible. It was supposed to be a happy occasion, but everyone left upset and dissapointed. I tried to voice my experice and got an absurd excuse. I WILL NEVER go to this restaurant again and will NEVER recommend it to any of my friends and family!
Food was bland.
Weak Menu - Waiter Ruined Our Evening – Too many pickled items on the menu. Not really a dinner place - mostly appetizers. Food was decent. Although, rude waiter with a chip on his shoulder ruined our evening. Not going back there.
I'll be back for sure – The food here was great with service to match. Had a large selection of sake and a good mix of dishes to order. I will be going back soon.
Great food and Great Service. – Went for dinner tonight with my Mom and Sis. Everything we ate and drank was delicious. The Lamb ribs were to die for.
really fun dinner – I ate at Biwa for the first time on Saturday night. The service was excellent and the food was interesting (in a good way). I was really impressed with the drink list and everything we ordered was delicious. It is also a really fun casual atmosphere with a cool kitchen bar. Good job Biwa!
I want hiyyakko now – Biwa has food that, frankly, I would eat every damn day of my life. For example:
Hiyyakko: Cold Ota (Portland Local!) Tofu with Bonito Flake
Homemade Kimchi: Need I say more.
Deepfried Homemade Kimchi: Even Better? Hell yes.
Chicken Karaage: Melts in your Mouth. Chicken fat never tasted so good.
Miso Scallop: Perfectly Grilled
Beef Tartar w/Quail Egg: Order 2 of 'em
Onigiri with Umeboshi Plum: The best I have ever had in any Japanese establishment. (Sorry, Seattle)
Their wine and sake and shochu selections are fun and thoughtful and offer great deals as well as special rarities.
Yes, portions can be small, but when sharing and ordering smart, you can leave full after spending less than $20. If you sit at the bar, even better as the bar offers certain menu items at a discounted price. If you go nuts, yes you can run up quite a bill.
My loverman and I have eaten Izakaya all over the west coast, and Biwa takes the cake for quality, consistency and presentation.
I take issue with the occasionally absent service, but I have also eaten at Biwa and had great service too. My advice is to plan ahead and order what you think you may want when you have your server's attention.
Biwa, I love you!
nice atmosphere, good food but I left hungry – I really liked the atmosphere and thought the menu had a diverse array of appetizing choices. I found the waitstaff to be very friendly and attentive even though the restaurant was about 3/4 full. I tried the cold soba noodles with green tea and shrimp appetizer as my meal. It was simple and refreshing but a little bland. The portions are way too small - for example the lamb kabob at $4 was about a half a cup of meat. The asparagus appetizer is like six pieces of aparagus for $8 or $9. My husband enjoyed his ramen but I left hungry after dropping over $80 on our meal. C'mon Biwa we are not asking for Outback Stakehouse portions but please give us a little mooooore.
What exactly did I pay for? Poor service and mediocre food. – This was probably the worst dining experience I've had in Portland. biwa seemed great at first - cozy and trendy, relatively busy, etc; however, the service was abhorrent. We were a group of 14 who called ahead to make reservations. Granted, they were busy when we arrived, but biwa is so small that it only holds about 10-12 tables total. We were not approached by a server for at least 15 minutes and after ordering drinks, we waited for those drinks for another 20 minutes.
Appetizers were preorderd at $5 per person when the reservations were made (be warned, this is a total rip off). They served us several bowls of appetizers, which if orderd seperately would have saved us nearly $30 as a group. Basically, we paid for 14 appetizers, but only received 9.
The server, whose face we only saw twice the entire visit finally took our entree orders long after we had finished our appetizers. I ordered the Fried Rice w/ BBQ Pork and it was a bowl of greasy rice with about 4-5 microscopic pieces of charred pork. In essence, I paid $11 for a bowl of greasy rice and a few pieces of carrots. The other items around the table looked like small appetizer portions as well. I don't expect a plate full of food when I go out, but I also don't expect to leave feeling hungry.
When the server finally decided to bring our check she did not offer (or even ask) if we would like it split up. We reluctantly did the work on our own. Moreover, they have a policy of using no more than three credit/debit cards per table so 90% of our party had to rush to an ATM in order to pay for their meals. Another server quickly told us we should bring cash next time we come, though we were never told of this rule prior to ordering (it was in small print on the menu). However, if they can run three cards, I'm guessing they have the capability to run more than three cards. I spent $30 on mediocre food, had to argue just to pay, and our server did not even think it necessary to say thanks or good bye, though she had no problem charging us an automatic 18% gratuity (I would have left 20% had she actually shown up to work that night). I will never go back.
Japanese Food? What? This is insulting to Japanese people. – Me and my wife went there about few months ago to try this location because we heard a raving review. Just like many, I(I am Japanese, and I KNOW Japanese food) was really excited to try this "ramen" that everyone was going nuts for.
First we went inside, and the restaurant was really hip, and the design was very modern. I was impressed with that, but that was it.
Service like everyone say, is just awfully slow. However they were friendly so no complaints. After all, I WORK in restaurant too!
We tried few yakimono, or that's what they want to THINK yakimono is. Yuk.
So me and my wife were praying that this "ramen" would save this place from utter failure. Funny thing was, the waitress almost wanted to warn me saying that this is "Portland style ramen"(because she was Japanese and I was too and I was talking to her)
Drumrolls, and here they come. All I can say was, WOW. First there were some burnt char like layer of something*(no it wasn't seaweed) and there was no real color to the broth. The noodle was just plain white noodles that almost looked like some dried noodles from some Asian store. There were onions and you don't put white/yellow onions in ramen.
I took 2 bites telling myself that this is ok, but I could not lie to myself. 2 minutes later, I ask for check and run away from this place called "restaurant." I went to grab dinner at real Japanese izakaya, Yuzu.
If you want to feel piece of Japan, please save yourself and avoid this place. As Japanese I am ashamed that they call this Japanese food. They don't even order from the most well known local Japanese vendors for food.
Please, stay away from this place.
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