Hiro's Welcome

Hiroshi redefines sushi as it floats from Lake O to the Pearl.

Buddha knows, Portland has plenty of sushi restaurants. You can get your raw fish on toy trains, on buffets or at top-end spots like downtown's Murata. You'd think this niche needed no more options—until you encountered the quality and creativity of the Pearl District's new Hiroshi.

For almost two decades, Hiroshi chef/owner Hiro Ikegaya ran Hiro Sushi in a mini-mall off the I-5, surrounded by chain restaurants. Visitors soon realized they were in the hands of a master, whether Ikegaya was serving traditional sushi and sashimi or a selection of creative small plates based on classic techniques. I wasn't alone in my admiration: A crowd of regulars ignored the dullsville decor and concentrated on the transcendent food.

Ikegaya's move from Lake Oswego to the edge of Jamison Square has given him a space as elegant as his cooking. A small dining room in posh taupe and charcoal provides a backdrop for glistening fish in precise and beautiful arrangements.

All the old favorite sushi combinations are available, but to experience the chef's style, order from the appetizers section of the menu. Standout dishes include a "mille-feuille" of thin-sliced scallops and salmon in a sauce combining ginkgo-nut and sour cream ($14): an example of how Ikegaya's sense of balance can turn an unexpected combination into something that seems absolutely right. The kick of red jalapeÑo chiles combines with miso, garlic and sesame oil on seared tuna ($10); moist sea-eel fritters in a golden ponzu crust ($12) have just a back taste of the sea, contrasted with a creamy dipping sauce. The decadent monkfish liver and sturgeon caviar with truffle vinaigrette ($15) has rightfully become a signature dish.

Sushi is all about fish sources, and Hiroshi is one of the few restaurants that does not buy the majority of its fish from the Moonie-controlled True World Foods (See "Holy Mackerel!," WW, June 14, 2006). After decades in the business, Ikegaya has a network of sources that bring him fish of breathtaking freshness and flavor.

The menu expands in directions in which most Japanese restaurants never venture. A salad section features asparagus and shrimp salad with soy mustard dressing ($11), whitefish salad dressed with yuzu, the Asian citrus fruit ($12), and tuna and jicama salad with soy sesame dressing ($13).

Service is smooth and helpful. The alcohol list—14 white wines, two reds, some sakes—is decent but perfunctory.

None of this comes cheap. You'll spend at least $40 a person for dinner, but you won't find more refined, more expressive cuisine in Portland, from any tradition. A meal at Hiroshi will make you feel like you've had a bracing, restorative dunk in the Pacific, and make you ready for a new year of crystal-clear new ideas.

Hiroshi, 926 NW 10th Ave., 619-0580. Lunch 11:30 am-2 pm Tuesday-Friday, dinner 6-9 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $$ Moderate.

WWeek 2015

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