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“Wanted to like it...but just couldn't”
Review of chef naoko bento cafe - CLOSED

chef naoko bento cafe
Cuisines: Japanese
Neighbourhood: Downtown
Restaurant details
Neighbourhood: Downtown
Reviewed 6 August 2017 via mobile

I would give Shizuku 2.5 stars if TripAdvisor allowed it.

My wife and I were in Portland to celebrate our anniversary and, wanting to try some new places amongst our favorites, we thought we would try Shizuku. I really wanted to like this place: the inside is tastefully done in a very Japanese style, I want to see a Japanese woman chef succeed in a male-dominated industry, I want to give business to a one-off/local restaurant, etc. But the experience we had there left much to be desired and the let-downs were team-wide.

Upon entering, it took a good 3-4 minutes for the hostess (or anyone else) to realize we were there and show us to our table. Only as we ordered were we informed that one of our desired entrees (the Dungeness crabcakes) was unavailable.

It took quite a long time (20+ minutes) for our first dish (the Chef Naoko-style shumai dumplings) to appear. Besides being atypically large for "shumai" and covered in oats (!), they were lukewarm on the surface and actually cold in the center. The server was apologetic and returned with ones that were well-steamed, but the trajectory of the meal seemed set.

Our first entree -- the Alaskan salmon with Oregon mushrooms and sweet miso sauce -- also left much to be desired. The salmon was warm, but only just; selectively slathered in the sweet miso sauce (while other parts had none); and buried under what seemed like an avalanche of mushrooms. We can understand wanting to showcase mushrooms here in Oregon, but the "star" of this dish always needed to be the salmon; we could not understand why it was made incognito.

After the dumplings were replaced our server seemed a bit MIA...and we could not help but think it was due to a certain embarrassment. The better/more courageous, albeit more difficult, response would have been to double-down on attention and effort in the hopes of "righting the ship"...but that is not what happened.

In fairness, two of our dishes were good -- our second appetizer (Japanese yam tempura) and second entree (panko-fried wild prawns). I would also characterize our server as quite kind and hard-working; during most of our meal she was busily working quite a number of tables.

That said, overall the meal felt like a bust and we are unlikely to return. I wish Shizuku well, but it will take a far better team effort to succeed in Portland's fairly deep eating scene.

Thank Todd H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (18)
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1 - 5 of 18 reviews

Reviewed 30 April 2017

I've taken Japanese people here who were knocked out by it, especially a food writer & cooking instructor from Tokyo who, after the first bite, said simply "I remember Japan". Now with the new place designed by world famous architect Kengo Kuma (he of the just completed Portland Japanese Garden addition), this is a must-go place.

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Thank PDXYogi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 February 2017

What was formerly a small, yet excellent, bento restaurant is now expanded in every way. The food was always top notch in the past, but now the menu's expanded, as well as the space. Beautifully designed and appointed, the new Shizuku is a testament to Ms. Naoko's culinary art form.

We ate here for the New Year's eve set course, as well as this past Friday night before a ballet performance.

The 3 course meal of primarily locally sourced organic foods was $30 each and to die for!

We've eaten and many dozens of restaurants in Portland, but this is one of our favorites.

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1  Thank David L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 February 2017 via mobile

Chef Naoko's new restaurant is next door to this address and I believe she closed that one. Shizuku is simple and clean in appearance and lunch choices were more than we expected. The quality of the food was outstanding as any long term residents of Japan can vouch for. We enjoyed our experience and will go back with friends and some day have dinner there

1  Thank richard g
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 October 2016

Kept seeing this place mentioned as one of the top restaurants in Portland and decided to give it a try. Small place with about 18 seats or so serving an assortment of bento -- salmon, chicken, pork, tofu. Super high quality locally sourced ingredients with a list of farms and providers posted on the wall.
I was there for lunch and had a tonkatsu bento for $15. A perfectly cooked, ultra crispy and completely grease free panko fried Carlton Pork loin cutlet. Came with rice, salad, tofu, greens, and sauce for dipping. Very delicious. Dining companion had the Salmon and Shiitake Mushroom Miso Bento. I will return soon.
Small signs on each table note that Chef Naoko caters the first class flights from PDX to Tokyo.

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1  Thank jpora
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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