Noraneko, sister restaurant of Biwa that recently opened last month, served me everything I needed on a tumultuous Monday. Glancing over the simple food menu, I made my choice of shoyu ramen, a Japanese soy sauce most popular in the Kanto region of central Japan but originating from Yokohama. My only additions were the special egg and pork belly chasyu. The kimchi caught my eye, and I had a tori kara age dessert (boneless fried chicken). Being accustomed to usually dining out for southern-influenced bar food, I realized in that moment that I needed to dive head first out of my microcosm and into the ramen realm.
For a meal option that’s been gaining popularity since WWII and having museums dedication, I felt uncomfortable just now realizing how great it is. Thankfully, Noraneko and Biwa have been holding my hand through the journey. The broth was appropriate for slurping and had just the right amount of heaviness. The only mistake I made was not finishing it fast enough.
The husband/chef and wife/architect duo have made it very clear what they like out of a ramen shop. In Gabe Rosen’s 2012 interview with Portland Monthly, he shared an experience that affected both Biwa and Noraneko. Their most memorable meal took place in a town called Kushiro. Their friend took them to a restaurant disguised as a “grocery market filled with fish and vegetables…it was so good and so primally simple.”
That remarkable simplicity carries over to their own new invention, Noraneko itself. The food menu offers four different ramen options: shio, shoyu, miso and vegetable, with a couple more optional additions and small plates. The drink menu offers a more imaginative introduction to the Portland beverage scene. Bartender Jon Lewis gave me a heads up about the upcoming inventions that will be soon ready to cure your curiosity.
Noraneko will be participating in Negroni week as well as introducing their Kimchi Bloody Mary highly appropriate for their earlier weekend hours (11am Saturday and Sunday).
This new casual restaurant inevitably will pick up speed and a dedicated clientele, similar to the development of Biwa. The atmosphere is modern and positive, housing excited owners, staff and patrons. Portland’s lucky to have this pop up during a time when everything else seems the same. Check it out and venture away from your microcosm soon as well.