Little Daruma is the sushi bar in town that most approximates the sushi bars of Japan—an intimate space designed around the burnished-wood counter behind which Tony Chen shears salmon and albacore into plump, fresh cuts of nigiri and sashimi with grace and speed.
He will top each with bits of shiso, roe, or a slight wasabi accent, saucing each gently and appropriately whether or not you've sprung for the full omakase that's available only from 9 to 10 pm. Which is to say, this is not a sushi spot where you should exercise your bad-faith habit of dousing every bite in a pool of soy and wasabi.
Chen's skill at blending flavors and textures makes this perhaps the only sushi spot in town where the rolls are a can't-miss part of the menu, mixing fruit, herb and fish to explosive effect.
The Cully roll, blending salmon, eel, strawberry, mango and chili, is an omnidirectional starburst of sweetness and fatty lightness that will change everything you think about maki—and maybe even about Cully. Meanwhile, a shiitake roll adds in kinpira—flash-fried, crisp root—and yu choy greens to create vegan sushi maki that won't make you miss the fish.
Blackbird wine shop's Andy Diaz is a co-owner, and this shows up on a back chalkboard map showing the origin of each sake on the menu. Rather than offer an intimidating wall of sake names, the menu is arranged as a sake appreciation class, with complicated tasting notes.
Pro tip: If you don't go for the omakase, get a seven-piece chef's choice nigiri as a pair, then fill out your night and belly with the excellent makis.
GO: 3520 NE 42nd Ave., 971-279-2759, darumapdx.com. 4:30-10 pm nightly. $$-$$$.