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Popular Japanese dining destination Biwa is probably the last place you’d expect to find a happy hour burger, but show up after 10 p.m. and you’ll discover one of the most unique and flavorful offerings in the entire city.
This deftly prepared 6 oz. beef patty is seasoned with salt and pepper, then given a tasty twist with the addition of garlic, ginger and soy sauce. All these elements are set off nicely with a healthy layer of kimchi mayonnaise, but the real star of the show is the thinly sliced house-made chasyu pork, which spirals in perfect formation over top of the patty, adding another layer of complexity that will make you thoughtfully savor each and every bite.
Nearby sandwich shop Meat Cheese Bread supplies the bun, which plays its role well as a supporting actor to the variety of flavors it holds together, and the plate is finished off with a small portion of picked onions and carrots and a side of potato salad.
Buried in Biwa’s hot plates list you’ll find karaage, which is typically a marinated, fried meat, and here manifests as a delicious little Japanese fried-chicken bar snack. The dish consists of fried chicken crisplets, served with a bowl of spicy yellow Japanese mustard as your only accoutrement. Well, not your only one—spritz that wedge of lemon over the chicken before you dive in for an extra citric oomph that pairs beautifully with the curry-, garlic- and onion powder-seasoned meat. And get there (relatively) early: This is one of the dishes not offered on Biwa’s late-night menu.
If you want to feel liberated from having to narrow down lots of choices to just one pick, then you’re gonna love Biwa’s happy hour, which lists just three things: two $5 noodle bowls (either ramen or udon, both of which come with split, sake-marinated soft-boiled eggs) and one rotating, cup-filleth-over-into-its-saucer top-shelf sake. Now, you might think $10 for a short glass of sake is spendy, especially when compared to the $5 eats—well, it sort of is. But, the staff at Biwa wants you to experience and enjoy the kinds of sake you normally might not take for a test drive. When we stopped by, the nightly shot came from a bottle produced in the Niigata Prefecture, and the experience was indeed a fine one. Each sip started with a clean and slightly sweet note that transformed into an almost savory one as it made its way down the hatch. And it paired perfectly with either of the bowls, which, for a small fee, come with add-ons. Here’s a hint: If you’re leaning toward the udon, ask for yours with the kitchen’s spicy ground pork. If you’re thinking ramen, ask for the delightfully crispy and tender smoked pork shoulder. Either way, there are no wrong decisions here—it’s all good, really, really good. Just don’t keep your face buried in your bowl, though, because if you’re not looking, you might not realize that the best part may just be the service. You know a place is special when you often observe servers and open-kitchen line cooks frequently smiling and joking with one another. It’s like they want to be there—and it shows. Happy hour lasts from 5 to 6 p.m. and from 9 to 10 p.m. every night—so long as you’re sitting on one of the bar’s 15 stools.