Cargo Emporium Close-up: Giraffe Goods


The newest member of the Cargo Emporium is Giraffe, a Japanese Deli  That’s right, “Giraffe.”

“In Japan, a giraffe is a mythical beast,” says Giraffe’s  Kana Hinohara Hanson. “It’s whimsical and strange looking, but a symbol of gentleness. It’s a big creature with a tiny footprint.”

The same might be said for Giraffe’s presence at Cargo. Despite occupying a small corner of the store, the plates of Japanese pastries, shelves of Japanese grocery staples, and a cooler stacked with bento and sandwiches in tender milk bread command your attention. A hot case keeps fried chicken crisp, and another cooler holds fresh ramen and miso to cook at home. (Tip: the egg salad sando and chicken salad bento are staff favorites, and the beef curry pan will have you waking up at 2 a.m. with cravings.)

A handful of tables and chairs near the windows provides a place to enjoy a cup of coffee and sample a matcha roll or sweet potato croissant delivered daily from Oyatsupan, a Beaverton bakery making Japanese pastries. Giraffe’s shelves hold Japanese vinegars and seasonings, soy sauce, oils, and more. Giraffe also carries a few household goods, including an elegant carafe made to fit in a refrigerator door, ceramic ginger graters, and Japanese-made coffee mugs that beg to be held.

The owners, Kana Hinohara Hanson and Gabe Rosen, have been in a decade long conversation about Japanese convenience stores and Japanese home cooking, ever since they worked together in the early days of the venerated Portland izakaya, Biwa.

Kana grew up eating traditional Japanese home cooking. “Japanese home cooking is ingredient-driven, not technique-driven,” she says. “A lot of people are afraid to make Japanese food, but it’s all about care and respect for the ingredient.”

To that end, Giraffe now holds weekly cooking classes for small groups. Kana envisions teaching how to make gyoza (pot stickers) and the “mother broth” of Japanese cooking, dashi. (“It’s really simple, but easy to mess up,” Kana says.) Next month, Giraffe anticipates having its liquor license and will be able to sell and serve sake.

The next time you’re in Cargo, check out Giraffe and say hi to Kana. And don’t say we didn’t warn you about the addictive beef curry pan.

Cargo Inc.