Visit MaineToday's profile on Pinterest.

Restaurant & Bar Guide

Izakaya Minato

Izakaya Minato information

// Location54 Washington Ave.
Portland, ME 04101

// Hours5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

// Contact207-613-9939

// Price Range$$

// Cuisine Type Japanese,

// Features Beer list, Great Cocktails, Take Out,

// Reviews

⇢ Tiny and boisterous, Izakaya Minato seems to have floated in from Tokyo

Step inside tiny, boisterous, 37-seat Izakaya Minato, and it’s easy to picture yourself a few blocks away from Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station, not on Washington Avenue in Portland. Begin your meal the traditional way: with a drink – one of owner and general manager Elaine Alden’s pre-batched cocktails like the tangy, almost milky Nigori Colada; a bottle of beer; or one of Minato’s broad selection of excellent sakes, like floral Sawanoi. Ordering sake also comes with an unexpected bonus: your choice of sake cups from the owners’ eclectic collection. Some are vintage cups that Alden and her husband, chef Thomas Takashi Cooke, scavenged from flea markets when the couple lived in Japan, and the rest are, along with the glazed pendant lampshades hanging in both dining spaces, Cooke’s own handiwork. As you sip your drink, go for the omakase, a chef’s choice tasting menu comprising four or five courses that is one of the best bargains in town. Or if you feel like choosing your own adventure, you can’t go wrong with an order of the seasonal sashimi and an order of JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken) – just be sure to squeeze the lemon wedge on the crunchy, deep-fried boneless thighs; they need it. If they are in season, the ramps with squid is a tender, briny delight. After all that, if you still need something to fill you up, skip dessert and head right for a bowl of Cooke’s Japanese-Italian fusion udon vongole ($13), full of fresh clams and peppery fire from citrusy yuzu kosho paste. It might also put you in the mood for just one more drink, the way great izakaya food does. Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service, value and type of restaurant (a casual bistro will be judged as a casual bistro, an expensive upscale restaurant as such):