|Miho Izakaya, Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: 4027 N Interstate Ave Portland, OR 97227
|Hours: Wed-Sun 4pm – 12am||Times Visited: 3|
Situated across the street from the Alibi, Portland’s finest tiki bar, Miho Izakaya is a nice place to sit back, relax, and order real food, as opposed to bar food. The lower Overlook neighborhood has seen slower growth than Portlanders expected being right on the Yellow Line, so it’s great to see a new restaurant. Miho is located in an older house which has held many short-lived restaurants. Let’s hope this one sticks because it has many things going for it: first, it is very vegan friendly, second it’s cheap, and third it’s comfortable and relaxed.
The interior is fairly compartmentalized, since it was a house, with separate rooms which makes ordering at the counter at the center of the house a little confusing. The one menu is written on the large chalk board. located next to the counter. The low light levels take some adjusting but once you do you’ll notice the “v” s all over the menu indicating all the vegan options.
The most refreshing element of the expansive menu is the lack of sushi. I love sushi, don’t get me wrong, but the small entrée options encourages experimenting with Japanese food other than the beloved rolled bites.
The cheap ($2-10) plates make ordering multiple plates fun. You have the option of small ($2) appetizers like boiled peanuts, pickled vegetables, and edamame. Larger $4-6 plates include Roasted Squash, Garlic Eggplant, and Veggie Spam. Then, there are one-person meals, such as Donburi, which is simply sushi rice, and various vegetables. Once you order at the order at the counter, keep your tab open to hang out and order plates or sake as desired. The sake menu is extensive and friends inform me that they have one of the best selections of saké in Portland.
Within the Donburi the sushi rice is very sticky and the various vegetables are splendidly spiced, depending on your donburi bowl. I especially enjoy the Curry Donburi had a thick vegetable gravy over the rice. The Lotus Root Donburi reminded me that I am not a fan of this alien-looking root vegetables, but I appreciate it’s water chestnut-like crunch and the holey appearance. And since it is seasonal, I can say that I look forward to the replacement.
The smaller items are best shared to enjoy as many menu items as possible. The vegan options are simple AND clean dishes that are lightly dressed to allow the flavour of the vegetable to shine.
The pickled vegetables vary depending on seasonal produce available. Each vegetable was crisp and crunchy with an odor of unfresh vegetables, but I believe this may have been the intent of this type of pickling. The Greens and Tofu is a small plate of just that, with a light soy sauce allowing the flavor of the smooth bok choy to shine. The Fried Rice is simply sticky rice, peas, and soy sauce. No need to hold the egg in this dish.
The Kabocha Squash plate is a quarter of a squash, with the skin on, sliced to ¼ inch thick and baked until browned on the outside and dry inside. This is served with soy ginger dipping sauce. I prefered the dish without the sauce so I could taste the sweetness of the squash, but I found it too dry on its own. Because of how dry it was I was left wondering if it was fresh, or cut two weeks ago. This dryness made a dipping sauce important, just not such a bold tasting option.
Of the vegetable dishes tried, the Garlic Eggplant plate is hands down the best. Two Japanese eggplants are cut in half, length-wise, baked or broiled, and served with a layer of a garlic spread, almost like garlic butter on a baguette. The stem and cap of the eggplants are served while attached to the vegetable, so be careful eating around the stem in the low-light. My next meal here will be two orders of Garlic Eggplant and an oder of Fried Rice to give it more substance.
It seems rare to find a restaurant that knows how to cook vegetables and let the natural qualities become the dish, but that’s what Miho does. (Minus the question of freshness, but they still had good flavor.) All the vegetables I have had at Miho have been cooked and prepared as they should be – not under cooked and not over cooked. Even the lotus root, which I did not enjoy, but that’s personal preference. Miho does not allow substitutions and there’s no need to ask about veganizing other dishes with the abundance of vegan options.
While the sake menu is extensive, the tea options are dismal. Two flavors of Stash Tea are available. I’d like to see Miho expand their tea options, even a few high quality teas would be a nice addition if they are afraid of becoming a tea house.
If you’re in the neighborhood make sure to check out this new restaurant. Or, if you’re passing through on your bike, stop by and enjoy yourself after making the climb up Interstate hill. In the summer, enjoy the large front, partially covered deck. And in the winter, take your shoes off and try the more private tatami mat room. Once you’re done with your relaxing meal, walk across the street (well, around the max tracks, not over) to the Alibi to enjoy some fun karaoke.
While I am still debating if Miho is a neighborhood restaurant or a destination restaurant, I am just glad it’s in my neighborhood and offers a great variety of vegan options.