Fukami Is the Finest Dedicated Sushi Spot in Town—With Crazy-Good Drinks to Match

Fukami means “depth,” and you’ll find it here.

Fukami means "depth," and you'll find it here.

Before it closed, Belmont Street's Hokusei was already one of the finest sushiyas in town. Upon reopening in the same space as 12-seat chef's counter Fukami, chef Codi Auger upped his game both in ambition and price. You can get by-the-piece nigiri here, but the only real way to eat is by choosing a small ($60-ish) or large ($90-ish) ever-changing tasting menu.

One night a sunomono might include a cold-smoked mussel so delicate it's like the essence of a beach campfire, and the next it'll be replaced by the tentacles of an equally delicate squid. An albacore tataki, meanwhile—fish lightly seared and marinated in citrus—might be served with light aji-amarillo sauce on a bed of light chimichurri, an ode to a felicitous meeting of fish cultures amid Japanese immigrants to Peru. Drink pairings ($30-$45) range equally wide, moving from a beautiful Toro no Boshi yamahai sake to a peat-inflected Nikka Scotch-style whiskey to Norman muscadet wine.

But every meal stops in the middle like a lover's heartbeat. That's when the nigiri comes. One at a time, while mashing fresh wasabi root directly from the tuber, Auger will lay down eight or 12 meticulously crafted pieces of hyper-seasonal fish whose flavor is so deep it's hard to find the bottom. Each mini-fillet is served over rice that manages to be ethereally airy while maintaining its integrity, a technique Auger learned in Los Angeles last winter.

Fukami is a little big for the intimate food it serves, and will probably move into a more appropriate space this February. But it may already be the finest dedicated sushiya in Portland.

Fukami (Thomas Teal, Yasmin Alishav)

Eat: Order the omakase. If you have the money, order the big one.

Drink: If you don't opt for the (recommended) pairings, bar manager Marjorie Caputo's cocktails are also uniformly good, especially a Kemura cocktail mixing mezcal, fernet and citrus, and frothy egg white.

Most popular dish: What you get is the omakase.

Noise level: 35/100

Expected wait: Getting a reservation is smart, but early

on weekdays we've been able to walk in and score a chef's counter seat.

Who you'll eat with: Second-generation Japanese Americans, anniversary couples, chefs from all over town.

Year opened: 2013

Fukami (Thomas Teal, Yasmin Alishav)

4246 SE Belmont St., 971-279-2161, fukamipdx.com. 5-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $$$$.


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