Entering Shizuku is like meeting a match off OkCupid, walking into a bar and finding Kendrick Lamar waiting for you.
Outside, the Jefferson street storefront is a nondescript box. But within, it's an elegant wonder designed by Kengo Kuma, the famed Japanese architect who designed Portland's Japanese Garden expansion and Tokyo's wood-slatted Olympic stadium. Shizuku is all honey-colored wood and natural sunlight, swathed in the folds of organically undulating bamboo screens. In one corner sits a floating table on a stone bed, reserved for tea ceremonies.
Naoko Tamura is considered an organic food pioneer in Japan, and the restaurant is so full of Japanese families that all waitresses must speak the language. But for 10 years in Portland, Tamura was more famous for the elegant bento boxes at unassuming Chef Naoko restaurant, made with a strict adherence to Japanese tradition but with fresh, organic painstakingly sourced Northwestern ingredients.
Tamura still cooks elevated versions of her heavenly pork tonkatsu and organic chicken bento. But Shizuku now offers a sea of à la carte options including a terrific surinagashi, a lovely Japanese oyster bisque that's a small, creamy mouthful of Willapa Bay oyster, carrots and cream. The panko-fried prawns look architectural and taste wonderful. And every meal should begin with the cool, gummy hazelnut tofu in savory sesame sauce.
But the greatest innovation on Shizuku's new menu is the six-course kaiseki menu, available only by reservation, offering up Japan's version of haute cuisine. Our final course of the meal was a transcendently wonderful grilled unagi on rice, served with pickled vegetables and miso, and it demonstrated what Shizuku does best. The tender, lightly grilled eel is on the one hand an unassuming plate, but was towering in its restraint and balance—accented but not overcome by the sauce. It was pure, simple perfection.
Pro tip: Feel like eating this food in the sky? Tamura's simple, lovely bento is the Japanese meal offered on the nonstop Delta flight from Portland to Tokyo.