Restaurant Guide 2013: Yama Sushi

926 NW 10th Ave., 841-5463,

[AVOID THE BLOWFISH] Yama means "mountain" in Japanese, on the face of it a bewildering name for a sushi restaurant. But Yama is also the judge of the afterlife and arbiter of purity. Accordingly, this Pearl District sushi bar is often home to the affable sushi blowhard, the affluent white guy who tells the Japanese mountain about his version of Japan, begging for approval. Less needy but discerning diners will, however, find what they need on the daily specials menu. The restaurant actively seeks out rare treats more assiduously than any other in town, and recently purveyed some of the most flavorful albacore I've known in this life, served up in six pieces for $13.95. The main menu is often stodgy, the daily menu an adventurer's hall, the omakase a treasure trove of subtle-accented delights. Still, the standing small-plates menu is among the best and most wide-ranging in town. Alongside staid teriyaki and noodle entrees meant for locals in the condos, the kitchen serves up terrific beef tongue and poke, agedashi tofu and a sterling daily pick of fish carpaccio. The sushi menu, beyond the specials list, is best ceded to an omakase determined by Yama's skilled chef Scott (or by new hire Kaoru Ishii of Hokusei). The restaurant's highs are as lofty as almost anywhere in town, its lows merely comfortably familiar. Always nice to work with both a high wire and a safety net.

Ideal meal: At the high end, omakase. Otherwise, start with the daily specials and move on from there to small plates and sashimi, as needed.

Best deal: There's a 15-piece deluxe sashimi selection for $24.95.

Pro tip: See if you can talk the service staff into letting you in on leftover flights from the monthly three-sake tastings. Hooooo!

11:30 am-2:30 pm and 4:30-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-11 pm Friday, noon-11 pm Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday. $$-$$$.


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