Late Night Ramen and Cocktails Rule at Noraneko


Noraneko
, the spin-off ramen shop of Biwa, opened in mid-March. Nestled under the Hawthorne bridge, the restaurant’s name translates to "alley cat." It joins the list of Industrial District hot spots, such as Olympia Provisions, Clark Lewis, le Bistro Montage and Boke Bowl. It’s the latter of these, the well established and popular ramen spot, that Noraneko will have to prove itself against and will undoubtedly be compared to in coming months.

The noodle shop, like a number of other recent places in town, concentrates on small menus, counter service, late hours and craft drinks. The main focus is on four ramen options, priced at $8 each: shio, shoyu, miso and vegetarian. Also available are a few appetizers, including gyoza and boneless fried chicken, as well as add-ons for the ramen; The pork belly chasyu is worth the $2 charge to add, as is the extra garlic, which is priced at $0 on the menu, and comes with three bulbs of raw garlic and a garlic press for patrons to garnish as liberally as they desire.

The ramens are excellent—Thick, al dente noodles and vegetables float in delicate broth that is far less sodium-packed than one might initially fear. There is no great standout from the four—the miso is the richest and saltiest, and the shoyu may be the most recognizable as “standard” ramen, but the pork-broth shio is delicious, as is the vegetarian option.

Open until 2 AM every day, the restaurant is clearly aiming for a late-night bar crowd, which may set it apart from Boke, which closes at 9 PM.

The drink menu is intriguing: a long list of classic cocktails, sans description, including everything from a Gin & Tonic, to a Manhattan, to a Negroni. All drinks are $10 or under, and while some patrons might be reluctant to spend $7 on a highball like a whiskey ginger, the drinks here are made with aplomb and high quality ingredients. The Sazerac, an especially tricky cocktail to pull off, is excellent here, even with a $9 price tag (especially considering the ubiquity of $12 cocktails this city is currently suffering under). Also available is a range of house-made sodas and juices, a substantial tap and bottle list, wine and sake.

The environment is casual and bright, with an appropriate South-East Asian flair. Seats and booths spill out into an industrial hallway to make room for crowds. While there may be a decent line to the counter, food and drinks are promptly served almost as soon as guests find a table.

There is some steep competition, but a strong start and the prior success of its parent shop, Biwa, are auspicious signs for Noraneko’s future. This might be your newest casual date spot or the best spot to satisfy your late-night craving for ramen. 

Noraneko; 1430 SE Water Ave.; 503-238-6356

Photos by Alexander Frane

Tags: Cocktails, Food
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