Biwa: Restaurant Guide 2014

215 SE 9th Ave., 239-8830,

[GABE'S CELLAR BAR] Bring up Biwa around town and the thing that will inevitably be mentioned first is the item that's hardest to procure: the burger. Available only a few hours before closing, it is the Great Pumpkin of Portland food, achieving near mythical status among local beef-eaters. But the magic of Gabe Rosen's basement-level izakaya isn't limited to the short window of time in which that juicy pile of beef, kimchee mayo and char siu pork may appear in front of you. The sake and wine lists are estimable, they're willing to fry seemingly anything from shrimp to kimchee, and the yakimono skewers—accompanied by nothing except the single meat or veggie of your choosing—are grilled to perfection approaching the divine. The restaurant's first claim to fame was ramen, and they'll be opening a new ramen house called Noraneko later this year; for now, the ramen comes in a rich, aromatic broth that both masks and transforms the store-bought noodles. The udon may tempt you, but stick with the skinny stuff. At 10 pm, the late-night menu, served at the counter surrounding the open kitchen, kicks in, but don't just jump straight to that elusive $8 burger. Pre-game with dumplings, a few reduced-priced skewers and a $2 grilled rice ball. Trust me: You'll still have room for the main event. MATTHEW SINGER.

Pro tip:

On Biwa's March 15 anniversary, the burger is served all night—sometimes in slider form.

5 pm-midnight nightly. $-$$.