Japanese restaurants in Portland generally live or die by the cuts of their nigiri, their sashimi, the sometimes goofy compilations wrapped up in their maki. And Meiji-En is no slouch in this category. Though the kitchen does make use of international pseudo-Jesus-freak Rev. Moon’s True World fish—as does just about every sushi restaurant in Portland save three—the fish is well selected and cut, and its Hawaiian maki (well-proportioned tuna, salmon, mango and avocado) is among the better-conceived rolls in town. Still, the real heart of Meiji-En’s menu is at its fringes. The poke salad with tuna, cucumber and daikon is marinated in a citrus sauce that doesn’t overpower the individual flavors. The mackerel, which elsewhere is usually overpowered by salt and skin, is cooked tender and subtle, with only a hint of pepper to bring out the flavor of a highly underregarded fish. The service can be sometimes affably inattentive, the chefs blank-eyed at questions asked in a language that isn’t theirs, but the true merits of the restaurant lie behind the sushi bar and in the kitchen.
IDEAL MEAL: Mussels, Hawaiian ooke, any given udon (gyoza in particular), Hawaiian maki roll and sashimi to satiety.