Do you like being happy? Do you like it when an hour actually lasts two? If you answered yes to these questions, then you’ll love Kon Asian Bistro – a steakhouse and sushi bar with a full hibachi grill room, huge bar, and one of the best happy hours in Portland.
Kon opened a few years ago on Brighton Ave at a location where no business seemed able to survive. Now, when you drive by, there is often a huge crowd there, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when it’s sometimes hard to even find a parking spot. The place has gotten its fair share of attention from patrons who are looking for a fun spot while not having to shell out a ton of cash.
While Kon’s food and drink are very good and their hibachi show very fun, what makes them really stand out from similar restaurants is their happy hour. With a solid selection of drink specials and a number of apps and sushi for $3.50, you can get your happy on for short money. The happy hour drink specials top out at $5 for the martini of the day and go down from there. They generally make the martini of the day whatever martini is ordered first during happy hour, so if you’re there early, you get to choose it. Hell, you can probably even name it if you want.
Food at Kon is a bit more upscale compared to the typical Asian food you would find locally. They have many of the traditional menu items, a large selection of sushi, and also items such as tropical mango chicken and papaya shrimp which are a little off the beaten path for an Asian restaurant around Portland. Everything I’ve ever had there has been up to par, from the drinks to the food, and including the hibachi items.
On my visit this week, we were all about getting happy after a hard day at work. Happy hour starts at 4:30 pm and ends at 6:30 pm giving you plenty of time for 12-15 drinks depending on how thirsty you are. The martini of the day was a blueberry martini – definitely manly enough for me. The house wine goes for four bucks at happy hour, but my wife threw caution to the wind and ordered a fancy chardonnay which is her typical wine selection.
The bartender who made my drink was clearly just starting and taking instruction from the other bartender on duty. That was no issue though. My martini was like a drop of dew from an enchanted candy forest. It was easy on the palate and packed a delightful, fruity punch, suitable for even the manliest, bluberry-martini-drinking man. Blueberry martini, you ask? No can defend.
Next we needed some food. All work and no play makes Peterpeterportlandeater a dull boy – and very hungry too. For $3.50 each, I decided I would create a combination of appetizers to make a meal. I started off with the dumplings and chicken satay. My wife ordered some edamame and shrimp shumai.
Apps at Kon always come out so quick that I try to imagine what sort of scenario would get the food cooked in such a short time. I suspect a bunch of cooks stand in the back at all times ready to drop the happy hour items onto a cooker of some sort. The first guy holds the soybeans above a pot of boiling water. Next to him, someone stands holding six dumplings above a sizzling wok. The next guy holds the chicken on a stick above the grill. As soon as the order travels to the back via the ordering system, a guy watching the screen yells “DUMPLINGS!!!” The dumpling dropper/cook immediately drops the dumplings and the frantic cooking starts. In a couple minutes, the dumplings are done and a guy goes around plating the food with all the garnishes and sauces. Then he hands it to a friendly waiter who runs them to you. I’m pretty sure this is what happens.
The dumplings at Kon are excellent as is the ginger sauce that comes with them. They are a little on the small side, but for the price, they are fine. The chicken satay is excellent. The peanut sauce that comes with them is very good. For me, it’s slightly on the weak side, but it is really only a minor issue as the flavor is very good overall. The issues are small enough that I keep ordering those items every time I go back.
There is a sizable sushi bar which is at the far end of the non-sushi bar. A few sushi makers expertly concoct many different kinds of sushi which all look pretty good. I don’t like raw fish or avocado, so my choices for sushi are almost nil at most places, but the stuff my wife orders looks like something I would like to eat in theory.
Our next round of food included vegetable spring rolls for me and spicy tuna rolls for the wife. I also doubled down on the martini since the first one was so good and blue looks good on me. Again the food came out like it was just waiting for me in the back. The spring rolls and the dipping sauce they came with were top notch. My wife loved the sushi. And when we finished those, I ordered more dumplings.
After two drinks and four apps, I was done. Seven apps total at three-fi(f)ty, two drinks at five, and a glass of wine at who-knows-how-much was pretty reasonable. Their regular food prices aren’t bad and the food is consistently high quality, so even if you’re not there for happy hour, you’ll still be happy with Kon. You should definitely visit when you have a hankering for happiness. Kon delivers every time.
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