A glance at Murata's tiny, plain-vanilla space in an office plaza wouldn't give you a clue that it is considered by many the best Japanese restaurant in Portland. Yet the restaurant's claim to the title is solid, rivaled in the city center only by the more elegant Hiroshi. You'll be pleased with startlingly fresh fish in perfect sushi and sashimi presentations. An autograph among many hanging over the sushi bar from Alton "Good Eats" Brown crows, "To Murata: The best raw fish I've ever had!" Cooked appetizer specials change with the season, but dishes like king-crab tempura or broiled cod in sake paste (prices vary, about $13) shouldn't be missed. Typical of great seafood restaurants, the bill can add up quickly here.

IDEAL MEAL: For a splurge you'll remember, get a group of friends together, reserve one of Murata's private Japanese-style tatami rooms (with space for Occidental legs hidden under the low tables), and let the chef create a multicourse kaiseki banquet (from $75 per person).