There's a tapas feel to this place.
With cozy seating at the bar and long, middle table, this isn't a great option for anyone looking to spread out while they feast on roll upon roll of nondescript fish. Orders are made per piece, and high-quality, local ingredients mean small portions.
We went with sushi of the chef's choice, starting with the nigiri with smoked octopus and cucumber seaweed that my octopus-hating wife consumed before I had a chance to ask if she was going to pass it my way. Highlights from the menu included hiyashi chawanmushi ($9), shrimp and scallop egg custard topped with ikura (salmon caviar) and tamago ($1.50), a folded-egg omelet in a sweet sauce held together with a seaweed wrap. The three-course ($30) or five-course ($60), with or without the sake & wine pairing ($15 and $25, respectively), option is recommended for sushi fans who aren't used to this level of fancy.
Try hagatsuo, a juvenile skipjack tuna that melted over my tongue; akagai, a wild Japanese blood clam softer than any breaded version I've ever heard of; and tekka maki, a tuna roll my wife was almost too embarrassed to order.
Be sure to try the Demon Slayer, a creamy but not rich sake with citrus notes that tastes faintly of hops without any bitterness. This is the place you go when you're ready to up your sushi game, but be ready to spend a little more than you're used to. The small layout makes it tough for large groups or families with kids that run around, but if you're early in the evening, this place may be able to accommodate.
Pro tip: Reserve a seat at the sushi bar to talk fish with any of the well-trained chefs, no matter the time of day.
GO: 4246 SE Belmont St., No. 2, 971-279-2161, hokuseipdx.com. 5-10 pm Wednesday-Monday. $$-$$$.