Portland >Restaurants > Biwa
215 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR | Directions 9721445.520936 -122.656977
Neighborhoods: Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Program, Buckman
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.
At best, bland fusion cuisine – The food here is more "fusion" than "authentic." I am truly mystified as to why the ramen here gets such high marks. The broth seemed starchy, left a strange aftertaste, and was bland and uninspiring. Granted, it's a Japanese restaurant and not a Korean one, but the bibimbap was absolutely subpar. I would not recommend coming here for anyone looking for truly authentic Japanese flavors.
Great atmosphere, bad ramen :[ – I've heard mainly bad things about Biwa's udon and ramen, but I had to give it a try myself. I love the interior and the cook station is pretty rad for being right in front of you like a sushi bar (duh it's an izakaya) but I had some of the skewers and they were pretty tasty. The ramen I had was pretty doughy and it just left a bad taste in the mouth. I left pretty full for 12 dollars but unsatisfied. I'll give it another go but gonna stay away from the soups. Sit at the bar with a friend.
Portland Izakaya at its best! – I am very excited to have found a yakimono / izakaya restaurant in SE Portland. The food is excellent from the scrumptious yakimono items such as the bara (pork belly) and yakitori (chicken liver, thigh and breast) to the wide selection of izakaya specialties. Each menu item I tasted was a skillfully prepared delight! You may need to order more of the wonderful bite size pieces to fill you up but to me it was well worth it. If you're trying to save a few bucks ask about the counter specials. They also serve udon and ramen which I am looking forward to trying. Biwa's inviting atmosphere and attentive staff made my experience unforgettable. Bring your friends and enjoy experimenting the unique Izakaya menu. If you are ever in the So-Cal area and you want to try another wonderful Yakimono restaurant I recommend Shin Sen Gumi.
Be-warned! – We tried this restaurant for the first time for a birthday party, of 8 adults. The service was terrible! 15 minutes to get water, which came in glasses that were 1/2 full! We requested a pitcher for the table, and were denied! Our server showed up after 20 minutes, (no kidding, we timed her), and while she was very helpful & pleasant, her service continued to be glacially slow. The air was filled with smoke from the grill, and when we left our clothes smelled of smoke! Since we were a large group, we ordered and tried many items. The grilled foods were often as not burned & the skewers were ridiculously tiny for $6. It would take 3 or more of them for the average male to feel satisfied. The drink menu was interesting & overpriced. The kimchi was good, but Toji on Hawthorne has MUCH better. Considering the price, we felt our meal wasn't worth the lousy service, we won't return. For a more satisfying Japanese experience, try Kappaya on Division.
Delightful. – My husband and I consider Biwa in our top 5 restuarants. The kimchi is spicy and wonderful. The ramen complex, rich and soul-satisfying. The gyoza, fried dumplings, are fresh, crispy, hot and delicious. We always leave feeling warm and happy. The bar specials after 9pm are a really good deal. My husband ate his way through Japan and thinks they do a great job with the cuisine. The servers are friendly, quick and helpful, but maybe a little scattered when the rush hits. The only cons we have experienced are temperature based: not super-cold beer sometimes, and not super-hot ramen sometimes. The atmosphere is relaxed and warm with good music. Portland is lucky to have businesses that work so hard for our enjoyment. Thanks Biwa, we are happy you are here!
YES ! Ramen please. – Biwa is hands down the place my friends and I wind up at when we want great japanese food - or we just want to meet up and hang out. You can take it to the limit - with special sake and lots of little grilled treats and hot pots or keep it simple. The ramen is fantastic, the best in town -with homemade noodles and rich clean broth. Add the egg, add the bacon- it is worth it. Sometimes the japanese pickles are a little too salty- but the kimchee is always perfect. the grill can make some of the tender bits go black - they should watch that- but most of the time the meal is perfect, enjoyable, healthy and well executed. The staff takes pride in what they serve, and get excited when you get brave with your choices. I would say besides the ramen - my classic meal there is kimchee, grilled mackerel and a bowl of rice. Try it!
exquisite specials – my friends and I went out to Biwa on a Thursday night recently?a good night to go, as Biwa does a sake and food pairing from a specific province. I'm no expert on Japanese food, but I do eat out a lot and consider myself an adventurous diner. I know when something is prepared with love and attention to detail, as it certainly was here! We absolutely loved the squid salad, the gyoza, the Korean griddle cakes, the tsukemono and yakitori?the pacing of the meal was just right, service informed and friendly, and we all had a great evening. Some of these reviews are obviously written by people who had expectations of the food being just like it is in Japan, and who perhaps consider themselves connoisseurs of all things Japanese, which may contribute to their disappointment. But, if you have an open mind and an appreciation for well-prepared, esthetically pleasing, delicious handmade food, some of the best in Portland, then you'll have a beautiful night out. Oishii desu yo!
Stay Away! – Probably my second worst restaurant experience. We waited a good 15 minutes before we were approached by the server, the people who were seated next to us about 10 minutes afters we did were approached first, and received their food and drink before us. The ramen was not as good as we had hoped, and the drinks were mediocre. Won't be going back!
Beware of Biwa! – My friend and I recently went to Japan. After reading the review on WW and looking at the menu, we were really excited to try Biwa because we have been craving good ramen. The atmosphere almost seemed like it was trying too hard to be a trendy hipster Japanese joint. The staff was very helpful and friendly, and that was the highlight of our dining experience. The ramen was horrible! The noodles were gummy and chewy, the broth grotesquely salty and the miso pork tenderloin tasted like breakfast ham. The bowl of ramen cost $8.00 and to get three thin slices tenderloin ?breakfast ham? was an extra $4.00. I slurped down about half a cup of the noodles and broth and then I was finished. Afterwards we went to another place to eat dinner!
I agree this is not Japanese Ramen – I was extremely disappointed with this expensive bowl of noodles. This is a true hipster kind of place; over priced food, small portions and a hyped up reputation. The staff was very nice and attentive however the food left a lot to be desired. After recently traveling in Japan I craved the wonderful ramen noodles I had in Kyoto. I should have known when the menu stated that the noodles were homemade Chinese style. The pork loin that was an extra $4 was like a thin piece of ham nothing like what you find in Japanese ramen. The broth was salty and not that favorful. With the total cost of $13 as I paid $1 for an egg this is definitely not worth it.
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