Chizu, A Cheese Bar in Portland
It's so important to travel. Not to say it needs to be lavish or romantic or life-changing every time, but it's really necessary to get out of your comfort zone and visit new places, even if it's only an hour away. Remember that Sex and the City episode where Miranda was dating a guy who hadn't left Manhattan for ten years?! It may have seemed shocking but I can contest, having lived there, that it was indeed difficult to leave the city. You get caught up with your life, I suppose -- you work your ass off during the week, and just crave downtime during the weekend. The highlight of my weekends were going to the laundromat to catch up on the week's New Yorker. That was all I did on Saturdays!
This isn't limited to New York City -- I feel this way about the Bay Area too. Maybe it's this false reality that we have everything at our disposal: restaurants that make you feel special, the ocean, Golden Gate park for some "nature". I mean, San Francisco really is such a picturesque town but is also a major bubble, and I'm afraid it's getting to be a bit monotonous and boring. Rent costs are too high for entrepreneurs to take a chance on new and inventive ideas for fear of an expensive failure. To open a restaurant has become a multi-million dollar endeavor filled with investors -- what happened to just opening a small business on loans and a credit card or two? Even if you did have the risk-taking spirit, it probably would not cover it here in the Bay Area.
Sorry, I digress. All this to say that I was really happy to stumble on Chizu, a cheese bar in downtown Portland, with a sushi bar concept.
What a fresh new idea! I was supremely impressed by this small, minimalist eatery -- it was like a cafe in Europe, or nomiya in Japan, with cheese prominently displayed in gorgeous glass cases. The bar was very dignified and handsome, made of magnificent dark wood.
At Chizu, you can check off what you would like with a pencil on this menu, or opt for the omakase aka chef's choice.
My dad, a sushi chef, also makes customers fill out what sushi they want on a paper menu so this is pretty spot-on.
Yoko opted for a glass of wine.
After drinking sake for two days straight, I just wanted this:
The cheese monger behind the bar was very kind and had just moved to Portland from Oakland! We thought this was a sweet coincidence. We stared at the menu for a few minutes and there were so many cheeses to choose from. Instead, we let her choose a few local cheeses -- some were even off-menu!
Please excuse me as I've lost my notes of who and where these cheese were made. I can recall that some were mellow and creamy and the hard cheese was nice and spunky, the way I like it!
Another woman who worked at Chizu had actually worked at the creamery where one of the cheeses was made! It seemed like a small, quaint community, from creamery to table.
The board came with some preserves, nuts, and dried fruits. It was a lovely platter that filled us up nicely!
Sharp knives are always so important.
I'm so happy to have stumbled upon Chizu -- it gave me a renewed sense of hope that people are coming up with new, creative concepts for restaurants. The sky's the limit and we shouldn't let bureaucracy or stifling financials get into the way of our ideas. We must follow our passion!
If you are ever in Portland, make sure to visit Chizu. It may inspire you to open up a cheese bar in your own town!
1126 SW Alder Street
Portland, Oregon 97205