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Inside Ichiza Kitchen, located behind Vtopia Cheese Shop on SW Jefferson.

One of Portland’s latest trends is, apparently, vegan restaurants replacing other vegan restaurants. First, Aviv replaced Heart Bar, which had recently replaced Portobello. Only last week, Homegrown Smoker opened in the old Proper Eats space in St. Johns. And now, a new vegan eatery has taken over the old Homegrown Smokehouse spot in Goose Hollow, which closed late last month.

In a matter of days, Ichiza Kitchen has radically transformed the windowless space, which is hidden behind vegan cheese shop Vtopia, from a half-hearted deli counter to neat, minimalist date spot. The menu is the brainchild of Cyrus Ichiza, a former traveling body piercer whose culinary background includes cooking with his Filipino grandmother, sneaking into culinary classes in Charleston, South Carolina, and working at adjacent Vtopia. (Yes, he’s legally changing his name to match his restaurant.)

Each meal at Ichiza Kitchen starts with oolong tea service, featuring brews with intriguing names like “blue people," “hairy crab,” and "duck shit." “The tea is from old practices passed down from generation to generation,” says Cyrus. “So I can’t call it organic, but I can call it ancient.” The food menu recreates the flavors and recipes of Cyrus’s childhood, using traditional “slow food” techniques and tasty mock meats distributed by Cyrus’s aunt.  

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Dishes include the tea leaf salad (fermented oolong tea on a bed of romaine and kale, topped with vegan shrimp, fried onion, nuts, lemon, and tomatoes) and PDX salmon bowl (vegan salmon filets, sesame broccoli, spicy cucumber, rice).

“My auntie is from Southern Taiwan,” he explains. “Vegetarian Buddhists have a huge stronghold in Southern Taiwan, and they’ve been making fake meat for 250 years.” The vegan meats appear in pan-Asian dishes like Lan Zhou beef noodles, shrimp-topped tea leaf salad, and chicken adobo marinated in coconut vinegar black soy sauce. It’s possible to order one large entrée, but you’re best served filling up on several thoughtful small plates—think bean curd skin, spicy tuna onigiri, sesame broccoli, and kimchi mung bean cakes. 

As the menu explains: Ichiza means "one sitting, or the zen principle of stopping to contemplate one’s path.” In keeping with the concept, all dishes are served together on one tray. Eager patrons can stop by the restaurant on SW Jefferson starting Saturday, July 15, from 3–10 p.m. If you’re lucky, you might be able to meet Cyrus, his work-and-life partner, Ryan Wythe, and maybe even his 75-year-old grandmother, who, endearingly, plans to work as a part-time host and server.

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