- Like most of Portland’s new restaurants, Izakaya Minato is smallish, but exquisitely-designed, evoking the essence of a neighborhood Japanese-style pub with an open kitchen and lots of communal seating, creating a friendly atmosphere. There is also a separate dining room for those who prefer a quieter experience. On both our visits, we sat at the bar, and had a very nice time chatting with both locals and tourists.
The bar has some very nice mixed drinks; my favorite is the plum vesper. As you might assume, this drink comes with a pickled plum as a functional adornment. What makes it unique is that taking small nibbles from the plum completely changes the taste of the cocktail from slightly sweet, to something that is a bit tart and more complex. Happy, happy! Even better, both bartenders we encountered (Isaac and Lucy), made outstanding sake recommendations. I always want to try sake, but know so little about the wine that I usually go with a beer instead. We not only tried several that we liked, but also consumed the wine in traditional styled cups that chef/owner Thomas Takeshita Cooke made himself! It doesn’t get more hands-on by the chef or locally -sourced than that!
There are a wide range of menu choices mixed about evenly between vegetable/rice, seafood, and meat-focused dishes. While those not familiar with Japanese dining might have menu-anxiety, these are mostly Japanese comfort foods with a universal appeal: soups, pancakes, fresh seafood, grilled meats, and fried chicken.
Also available for those that like a little surprise or help making choices is the omakase (chef’s choice) for $30–a great way to experience 4-5 courses that the chef feels are the best of the day. We took this route on our first visit and really enjoyed the experience: super garlicky edamame, a delicious soup of mushroom and eggplant (Nash Nemeko Oroshi), the sublime JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken), and a very nice fried rice with garlic scapes (rice is a traditional ending for this type of meal). We enjoyed ourselves so much that went back about week later. Standouts from our two visits were the beautifully/simply prepared sashimi and carpaccio dishes, including a stunning mackerel, salt-cured to remove its stronger flavors and leaving it with a perfect texture. Also fantastic was the richness of the JFC, which uses brilliantly-rich thigh meat and is served with a kewpie mayo, as well as the savory beef shorts ribs served with kimchi, and the delightful okonomiyaki (pancake) made with mushrooms and cabbage. All so beautifully-prepared, deliciousl-flavored, and comforting!
Having had at least 12 items from the menu, I hesitate to go through them all. Really the best way to explore the menu is to try it yourself. This I highly recommend; here are some photos for further encouragement:
The following are photos from our fantastic New Year’s Eve dinner at Central Provisions. The evening’s menu was a preview of owners Chris and Paige Gould’s soon to open second restaurant Tipo, and the supremely talented Chef Mike Smith who will be overseeing its kitchen.
As I plan on visiting Tipo as soon as humanly possible, I will mostly (but not completely) let the photos from this brilliant dinner speak for themselves.
From the very first bites, it was clear that this pair of chefs really know how to meld contrasting textures and flavors in ways that build one upon the other, each bite a magical mélange: rapini with Spanish mackerel, mushroom ragu with chicory, dry-aged sirloin with charred traviso. So synergistically yummy!!
Then there was the pasta. While I generally don’t consider myself a pasta person, the ones pictured below had such wonderful substance, flavor, scents, that I not only found myself devouring them, but I very well may dream of them (at least until Tipo opens). Such simple dishes perfectly executed: corzetti with squash and sausage and tagliatelle with white truffles! So deeply satisfying, especially on on cold winter night!