4246 SE Belmont St., 971-279-2161, fukamipdx.com. 5-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday. $$$$.
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.
Going the omakase route is usually the best strategy at a sushi joint as solid as Daruma, but the rolls at this diminutive shop are startlingly good. It would be tragic to skip over a winner like the Hollywood roll ($15), a mashup of the sashimi holy trinity of tuna, salmon and albacore enrobed in a paper-thin sheet of cucumber and dotted with tobiko in a tangle of piquant ponzu, and the allium heat of scallions.
4130 SW 117th Ave., Beaverton, 503-350-1801.
This super-sub-rosa ramenya's funky, extensive izakaya menu is still available for dinner on weeknights (where else can you get tempura shiso natto?), but if you're there on weekends or for lunch, you'll just have to make do with a stellar bowl of ramen, like shoyu chashu-men ($9.50), a shoyu broth-based stunner with extra slices of tender pork.
Nestled in a rough-and-tumble stretch of lower Burnside, Mirakutei sports one of the best veggie ramen bowls in town ($11.50), no doubt due to the fact that it probably gets assembled with the same level of care as its meaty counterparts, the charred onions and bok choy lending a smoky sweet layer of flavor to the whole enterprise.
2832 SE Belmont St., nodoguropdx.com.
After their move to the former Genoa space earlier this year, Nodoguro chef Ryan Roadhouse and his wife, Elena, have retained the intimacy of their former Hawthorne space, all hardwoods and dim lights, while moving distinctly upscale. An evening at Nodoguro is more like an 11-act play than a simple dinner. A recent Pokémon-themed menu, dubbed "Memory Card," started perfectly with buttery albacore sashimi dressed with citrus and a fruity Spanish olive oil, almost like a declaration that, yes, they can do traditional fare faultlessly. Subsequent dishes featured bream two ways, the tender whitefish buoyed by a quenelle of grated daikon atop a lightly curried broth and buckwheat berries, and an ethereal tamagoyaki, each layer of the savory-sweet omelet identical in width. Be prepared to get your socks knocked off. BRIAN PANGANIBAN.
Hours and prices:
Sousaka (11-course dinner) is $95, served at 6:30 pm Wednesday-Sunday. The "supahardcore" sushi dinner is $125, served one weekend per month.
404 SW 12th Ave., 503-444-7455, bamboosushi.com.
This super-slick downtown branch of the Bamboo family of sustainable sushi restaurants has a strong small-plate focus that can at times eclipse its fish, as is the case with the okonomiyaki. This seafood pancake ($8) is the savory sweet, umami-infused, scallop- and shrimp-studded Dutch baby you didn't know you wanted. Pair it with the albacore carpaccio ($15), dressed in its pickled shiitake finery, and a Sapporo and consider yourself sorted.
406 SW 13th Ave., 503-221-6278, masusushi.com.
At regular prices, Masu can cost as much as Yama or Fukami, the finest sushi in town. But at happy hour till 6 pm and after 10 pm? You're getting some of the best sushi deals in town, where $4 to $6 will net you maki filled with albacore tempura, tekka tuna, salmon, salmon skin, eel or spicy tuna from one of the finer spots in town. And the price break on most non-aji tuna nigiri is just as extravagant, rolling in at almost a 50 percent discount. Best. Late night sushi. Ever.
At Yama, the trick is to ignore almost everything.
If you're looking for sushi, your first step is to pass over Yama's second location on Southeast Division Street. Once at the labyrinthine Pearl spot, ignore the noodles and the teriyaki, as well as that layer-caked tower of tuna ($14.95). Be untempted by the silly-ass Flaming Jack roll ($14.95) that comes on foil, surrounded by a literal ring of flame.
In fact, if there's a seat open, don't even go past the warm-wooded sushi counter by the the front door, where chef Heemoon Chae—known to every regular simply as "Chef Scott"—serves some of the finest-sourced, best-treated fish in all of Portland. Now, ignore the printed menu. If you don't want to spring for the omakase chef's choice meal ($60-$100)—offering a parade of delicate premium salmon or uni or bass that may bear little resemblance to the fish you order from the standard sushi checklist—look instead to the handwritten specials menu.
There, you may find tender whole perch—or whatever was available that day—grill-charred to perfection over tender flesh. When you believe you've eaten all of it, the server will swoop it away only to bring back a skeleton so beautifully carbonized you can eat it, too.
Perhaps on that same menu, you'll see a selection of five different salmon sashimis, each its own version of ungodly deliciousness, alongside a special catch of fatty tuna and an albacore tataki served with a light dusting of shiso leaf. It is as if the chef has laid bare his omakase—everything extraordinary and rare—and allowed you to choose your favorites. Augment with a 10-piece assorted nigiri ($28.95), which will arrive as a mix of exquisite familiars like wild salmon and hamachi alongside exotica like geoduck, a tender fillet of raw octopus and types of mackerel you never knew existed.
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