September News!!

We finally got a soft serve machine!

Thanks to Kina’s tireless efforts now you can enjoy our delicious new Japanese style genmai vanilla sofuto creamu, swirled into sundaes with strawberries, sesame and butterscotch, granola and a cherry on top…

Unbelievably exciting!!! (finally!!!)

Kotori at the opening night of TBA!

We’re excited to announce that Kotori will be PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival’s opening night pop-up restaurant. We are going to serve favorites from the sumibiyaki grill alongside some Biwa and Noraneko classics from 8:30PM until 1:00AM at PICA’s new home at 15 NE Hancock.

From September 08–18, 2016, TBA will activate the city of Portland with contemporary art projects that bring artists and audiences together, creating a vibrant community through live performances, music, screenings, workshops, talks, and visual art installations.

We’re thrilled to be there on opening night, at PICA’s new home no less, and hope you will please join us!

Photo by Heather Hawksford

Photo by Heather Hawksford

Shazi’s Persian Corn Recipe!

The inimitable Shazi at Noraneko told us about a super simple and wonderful way with corn on the cob. It is all that Gabe and Kina eat on their days off lately, and we have been serving it at Kotori to great acclaim!

It’s comically easy:

Light a pile of charcoal and let the flame die down and the embers get nice and hot. Shuck some corn on the cob—as many pieces as you want—and place them directly in the coals. Cook until charred, blistery, delicious and covered with ashes and stuff. Remove from coals and rinse all of the stuff off of them in a bowl of really salty salt water (a little saltier than sea water) and enjoy. We have been eating it just like this, and find it intensely satisfying, but we suppose that you could butter them before serving and it wouldn’t be that bad (we haven’t tried yet…) Let us know!

Posole Ramen, Kimchi Tamales, Torta Katsu, and More!

An Interview with Gabe and Noraneko’s New Chef Carl!

Chef Carl and the Biwa Double burger at Noraneko

Chef Carl and the Biwa Double burger at Noraneko

We have a new chef! Carl Krause is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and has worked at exciting restaurants in Hawaii, Chicago, and Boston before choosing Portland as his home. Last summer he ran our open-air fantasy chicken snack world, Kotori (more to come on that soon!). After a stint with the nice folks at Nomad, he’s now back in our family as chef of Noraneko.

Some compelling outtakes from Gabe’s interview with Chef Carl…

Gabe: What’s your favorite food?
Carl: Don’t ask me that.

Gabe: How do you like your Italian beef?
Carl: Dipped, obviously.

Gabe: What’s your dream job?
Carl: This is my dream job.

Gabe: Who do you think it would be really cool to have worked for?
Carl: Marco Pierre White.

Gabe: You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?
Carl: Yes.

Also, Chef Carl is an avid gardener who enjoys the delicious Vietnamese restaurants of his new home turf in the Jade District AND he is already bringing fun vibrations to the menu at Noraneko like the curry ramen AND…

 

Introducing the Noraneko Sandwiches!

At Noraneko we are very inspired by the great 90s-era Portland casual spots like, Dot’s, The Roxy, Escape From New York, etc, that Gabe ate at all the time with John and Donnie and company when he first moved to town and was still real skinny.

To us these places are fun, alternative diners where you can hang out with your friends late at night (maybe intoxicated) and eat and have good times and listen to music and stuff... possibly go home and play video games after… They are the magical intersticial space between bars and restaurants that are at the heart of what we seek at Noraneko, in the guise of a ramen shop.

Sandwiches:

We like eating ramen in the summer, but we realize that maybe you don’t and anyway we thought that some nice sandwiches would be a good way to round out the menu (and would kind of be our version of soup and sandwich at the diner.)

Gabe has also been obsessing a little over veggie burgers and bratwurst lately, and the cooks keep making these sandwich experiments so we went for it, made the big jump and brought in a heavy hitter from the suburbs of Chicago (Chef Carl) to make us some real sandwiches…

Behold:

midwest bratwurst
homemade duluth-style (ask nick & jamie)

future burger
trendy veggie burger with traditional
burger stuff and our secret special sauce

torta katsu
delicious pork cutlet with chipotle katsu
sauce, avocado, & pickled peppers

biwa double
two all beef patties,the sauce, lettuce,
cheese, pickles, fermented onions

karaage banh mi
special recipe fried chicken tossed in
tropical vibes, pickled daikon & carrots. zesty!

 

Cinco De Mayo, The Tradition Continues!

Every year we do something special for Cinco de Mayo and 2016 is absolutely going to be no different. This year el mas chignon, Santos Gongora, is taking it next level with kimchi tamales at Biwa and the brand new posole ramen at Noraneko

Imagine classic corn tamales steamy and hot in silky corn husks with the special-recipe kimchi and melty cheese inside. !Si!

Picture porky posole rojo, taken to another place with ramen noodles, hominy, limes… !Que increible!

Also, there will be margaritas AND Santos and his wife both drive red Mustangs!

All goofy email newslettering aside, please come in during regular hours on Cinco de Mayo—that’s Thursday, May 5—to enjoy these delicacies. One day only. This is one of our favorite days at the restaurant and it is kind of an insider holiday for us… we will be there eating this stuff all day long ourselves and we hope to see you, too!

Tea at Noraneko

We’ve always been enchanted with the Chinese gaiwan, a traditional tool for brewing and serving tea. The technique has a bit to it, but it’s not overly fussy, there’s a wet and sloppy charmingness to it… you get to experience the tea as it evolves in the brewing process and in your cup. And a lot about what is cool and nuanced in the tea service at Noraneko is thanks to our tea sommelier, Chloé Womack. Here’s what she has to say about it…

Photo credit: Dina Avila

Photo credit: Dina Avila

 

• What is a tea sommelier? 

In a dining context, it is easy to discuss wine and tea as analogous because the breadth of knowledge required to acquire expertise in either beverage is of comparable magnitude. We use the term sommelier because the role of wine sommelier in restaurants is established and readily understood by most people. Tea sommeliers work to create tea lists that are complimentary to menu items, train staff on brewing and tasting techniques, and serve and source the tea itself. They are tastemakers who guide guests though a new and exciting experience of tea. 

Photo credit: Dina Avila

Photo credit: Dina Avila

 

•Tell us about your path to becoming a tea sommelier.

I had just left graduate school and was completely wiped out. I was sitting in a tea garden, enjoying myself more than I had the previous five years when I turned to my best friend and told her that all I wanted to do now was study tea. The following week, I interviewed at the Tao of Tea and was hired to be a server in their small restaurant on Belmont. It was there that I was trained on tasting and brewing, under the guidance of industry veterans. I drank tea all day long. When the teahouse was slow (May through October, yikes), I spent my time pouring through every book in our company’s library and picking senior employees' brains. I wanted to know everything about tea because I had truly fallen in love.

Outside of work, I became part of a community of tea drinkers. My days off were filled with tastings and Chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) training.  At my bartending job (because, of course, I had two jobs—one for learning and one to pay the bills) I would bring tea in and prepare it for my co-workers, gong-fu style. I’d discover a tea and devise a cocktail. I’d work with my friends in the kitchen on developing recipes for tea pickles and tea glazes and tea pot de crèmes. Days at the teahouse and nights at the bar went on for over a year. I was drinking or reading about or making or talking about tea for 18 hours a day.

I left the teahouse and was hired to help open the bar at Noraneko. During orientation, I introduced myself and talked about tea (obviously). Afterwards, Kina and Gabe approached me and asked if I could help them with the tea program. I distinctly remember telling Gabe that I would only do it if we did it right. Luckily, they let me run with it, and I have been the tea sommelier ever since. Everything clicked together, just like that.

I continue to do tastings and study tea ceremony. I started a company called Tea Somm (obviously) with my colleague, Ana Martinez. We spent the fall sourcing incredible teas from Southeast Asia, which you can now drink at Noraneko. ^..^

Photo credit: Dina Avila

Photo credit: Dina Avila

 

 • Where have you traveled to in the pursuit of tea knowledge, and what did you learn?

In September, I travelled to Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia in search of great examples of tea from underrepresented tea growing regions in our market. Tea from China is afforded a certain prestige, similar again to the wines of Burgundy. The demand for Chinese tea is so high that it is simply impossible for the tea farmers to meet. So, now you have Chinese tea grown all over the region that is then sold for export. Many of these are good teas, great teas, in fact. But, they can’t be fully appreciated because their terroir is often ambiguous. 

The idea of opening up conversation around where tea is actually grown was the impetus for Tea Somm and our sourcing trip. We asked ourselves why we couldn’t find many examples of great tea from places that were geographically similar, or proximal to China. When travelling, we operated under the assumption that if the climate is similar, and the people are the same, then there must be great tea grown there too. And, we were right.

One thing that I noticed when I returned from our trip is that many people’s perception of quality tea is rooted in authenticity. This is completely understandable, because tea is the oldest beverage on the planet and has many associations with spiritual practices. But, it is easy to forget that it is also the most widely consumed beverage on the planet. In tastings and when I prepare tea for guests, I am often asked if I am doing things ceremonially or in a traditional way. The answer is tricky because it is always yes and no.

When we traveled through Northern Thailand, we drank Tie Guanyin oolong with Chinese ex-pats who had been cultivating the region since Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In Taipei, we brewed Tie Guanyin grown in Taiwan, with pomp and circumstance, at the famed Wistaria Tea House. In Malaysia, we drank Tie Guanyin that had been grown in China, but imported and processed in Malaysia for the specific tastes of the Malaysian Chinese community. My point is that after meeting dozens of farmers and businessmen (always men) that live in these cultures, the most authentic thing one can do is actually drink tea. 

Photo credit: Dina Avila

Photo credit: Dina Avila

 

• How should people enjoy tea at Noraneko? 

The beauty of gaiwan service is that the guest can really get to know their tea by looking at it, experiencing its aroma, and drinking multiple infusions throughout their meal. Our tea list is dynamic and fun, just like our menu and restaurant. So, I say in full earnestness, that the best way to enjoy tea at Noraneko is to drink it all the time. I begin my meal with tea and continue brewing long after I’m done with my food.

 

Some of Our Favorite Artisan Makers

We have some friends whose beautiful wares are an essentially integrated part of the experience at our restaurants, and we think you should know a little more about them. The same attention to detail that we put into cooking and serving is echoed in their craftsmanship. And they make really great holiday gifts too…so please check them out!

Portland Apron Company creates handmade aprons in a small studio in NE Portland, with a focus on simple, functional designs and organic fabrics. It was started by Erika Kelly in 2012 as a fun side project, and has grown into a busy and successful business. Erika made these amazingly handsome/functional aprons for Norankeo and we think they are just great.  

“Kina and I got together at Noraneko to talk about what they needed in an apron. I brought her some samples to look at, and she asked if the ties could be customized to match the norens in the space. She wanted the ties to be close in color, but slightly contrasting. I thought it was a great idea, and after some searching I was able to find the colors we ended up with. I love the end result! It's really fun when I get to collaborate with others and come up with something new like this.” —Erika

NN Aprons.PNG

HANK by Henry is a collaborative effort between Noraneko chef Ed Ross and his girlfriend, designer Allison Henry. HANK offers a revival on contemporary chopsticks with a passion for un-paralleled craftsmanship. Each pair is crafted out of durable wood and meticulously hand-painted with understated details. They really are small objects of art.

“Culinary culture plays a big part in our daily ritual, we cook and entertain at home a lot. For us it’s about getting people together and sharing a meal with them - being surrounded by good food and lots of laughs. The chopsticks became our way of bringing a little more joy into that experience. We hope they inspire people to get jazzed about what they’re eating…these are the chopsticks they reach for every time they order takeout or make their favorite noodle dish.” —Ed & Allison

Careen Stoll’s ceramics are inspired by sensory experiences of nature: the cool smooth of a river stone, the transformation of an egg, the endlessness of the sea… and she finds it is easy to capture these qualities with porcelain. She designed a lovely set of platters and plates for our new sashimi menu at Biwa, so please take note next time you’re in. Watch the video below to see Careen at work…her method is truly an art form!

“As the daughter of a sailor, the creatures of the sea are particularly special to me. Memories of delicate undulations and effortless gatherings, all suspended in watery space, return to me when I sit quietly before sushi. I hope that my dishes at Biwa can present these gifts from the sea with the respect that they deserve. To work with Gabe and Kina has been a real pleasure: not only do they have a similar regard for the beauty and sourcing of food as I, but they absolutely understand the ephemeral sculptural nature of the dining experience without getting all formal about it. Biwa has always felt like a place where my heart is warm and all my senses are pleased.” —Careen

Video by One Hundred Seconds

News for November

The team just went to New York City and this is what they did…

Gabe, Kina, and Chef Ed took a trip to NYC in late October for the StarChefs International Chefs Congress. It was the 10th anniversary of this grand industry affair and the theme was “Open Source Cooking: The New Era of Collaboration and Connectivity.” No doubt. The gang thought it super cool to be in the same room as contemporary chef luminaries like Michel Bras, José Andrés, and Wylie Dufresne, and to cook alongside other chefs from around the world. They served the fried chicken from Noraneko… skin-on thigh meat brined in sake/soy/shio koji, coated in potato and cornstarch (gluten free!), fried to crispy amazingness. People loved it.

Ed also participated in a collaborative ramen competition, which was fun, and a highlight of the trip for him was a two-day stage at Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Nougatine and Jean-George (three-Michelin stars!).

They also ate their way around the city. Here are the places they went to and really liked:

·       Takashi (really special yakiniku restaurant)
·       El Rey (chia seed pudding!)
·       Sake Bar Decibel (Gabe’s been trying to go for years and finally went)
·       Grimaldi’s (funny people, good pizza…coal-oven fold-in-half slices)
·       Russ and Daughters Cafe (of course smoked fish but also halva ice cream!)
·       Superiority Burger (tahini ice cream!!)
·       Ivan Ramen (ramen!)
·       Spuyten Duyvil (wonderful exotic Brooklyn beer bar)
·       Grand Central Oyster Bar (half-shell clams and amazing bartender)

So Many Peppers

In anticipation of kale and kohlrabi, we’re furiously preserving the summer harvest. Because it’s fun to eat peppers and shiso throughout the year. Here’s what we’re doing…

Jimmy Nardello Peppers - made into a paste, fermented and dehydrated to make a fermented pepper powder to sprinkle on vegetables and sashimi for bright flavor and color. Turned out beautiful.

Shiso “Capers” and Leaves - Gabe asked all the farmers he knew to give him their shiso buds, and boy did they come through. That plus what Gabe and Kina pulled from their garden…we have a nice batch of fermented shiso capers. Plus the leaves too.

Events this Month:

Operation Tomodachi
PSU Center for Japanese Studies
November 5 | 6pm

What can Oregon learn from Japan's tragic triple disaster? (Earthquake/Tsunami/Fukushima Nuclear Plant Meltdown) The “Great East Japan earthquake” of March 11, 2011 was the most powerful in Japanese history, with a magnitude of 9.0 (Mw). General Eiji Kimizuka led the Joint Task Force that coordinated 100,000 soldiers of the Japan ground Self-Defense Force for relief efforts. General Kimizuka will recount what happened during Operation Tomodachi, and what Operation Tomodachi means for the Japan-U.S. cooperation in the future. Guys, this will be interesting.

OMSI’s Better Bites
November 12 | 6 - 8pm (21+ only)

This series at OMSI is focused on healthy, economical eating that’s a little outside the box. Chef Ed will talk about how to make ramen at home by jazzing up ramen packets with things you could get at any grocery store. Think “Supermarket Sweep” ramen… instant noodles, boxed stock, a simple chasu recipe using pork tenderloin, vegetable garnishes (hit the salad bar!). It will be healthy, delicious, and quick. And you get to taste it if you go.

Portland Night Market
November 20, 4 - 10pm | November 21, noon - 10pm

The Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) is starting a night market. It will celebrate the artisans, music venues, creatives, restaurants, and bars of the neighborhood. Come discover new makers and merchants as you taste, try, and buy. Biwa and Noraneko will be there serving sake and other surprises.