Just pick up the phone right now and make a reservation at this Japanese pub, squashed between an anime shop and a Korean family kitchen in a dingy Beaverton strip mall. It’s not that the three-year-old eatery owned by a pair of Tokyo expats is exclusive, it’s that the dining room is so damn tiny—just a handful of tables and a ratty booth wrapped around a big, no-nonsense kitchen—that there will always be a die-hard crowd slurping bowls of buckwheat noodles in intense bonito broth and nibbling orders of spicy kimchi spring rolls before you ever make it to the door. This is indeed an izakaya—it’s open until midnight on weeknights, and you should order a Sapporo or any one of the excellent sakes on Yuzu’s list (the Ichishima Junmai is a dry, sweet treat) as soon as you sit down. It’ll give you something to hold onto as you flip through a plastic menu of Asian marvels, from little plates of butakaku (pork boiled in sake) and beef tongue to small, perfectly grilled pieces of black cod dressed with sweet soy and yuzu, the restaurant’s citrusy namesake. It’s like a light bulb goes off every time you take a bite at this place, revealing in a flash what all that umami fuss is about. Who can blame the regulars for hogging the seats every night?
Order this: Kettle Chip-thick slices of grilled beef tongue are chewy, charred, buttery meat perfection.
Best deal: Big bowls of udon and ramen noodles served in pungent broth floating with big hunks of chicken, pork and crunchy tempura.
I’ll pass: Why drink a pint of Widmer when you can splurge on the Watari Bune Junmai, the “Liquid Gold” sake of Ibaraki, Japan?