Not all affordable sushi in Portland arrives via conveyor belt.

Fish & Rice is the newest, naturally lit gem in Portland's crown of chic counter-service spots. Nestled on the backside of Northwest 23rd Avenue, the small space boasts not only a formidable $13, two-roll lunch plate but a superlative cute factor that will tempt a visit long after the combination special expires at 3 pm.

(Christine Dong)
(Christine Dong)

The restaurant's name speaks literally to the extent of the menu: fish and rice, in the forms of sushi ($6-$14), nigiri ($4-$7) and poke bowls ($10-$13), all distinguished with a dash of experimental house sauces. The simple Pacific roll ($8) is a slab of salmon, red pepper and garlic aioli, dusted with furikake. Then there's the Red Panda ($13), an albacore tataki-salmon special roll that includes asparagus, radish sprouts, takuan, avocado and homemade basil oil (basil, spinach, olive oil, mirin and lime). An octopus poke bowl costs the same, featuring cucumber, wakame, radish kimchi, takuan and the K-pop sauce, which is a combo of Korean red chili paste and sesame oil. If you still seek adventure, peruse savory starters like steamed dumplings ($7) and sesame-squid salad ($5).

Alternative menu options aside, from 11 am to 3 pm, there's certainly not a better sushi deal in the Pearl. The $13 lunch includes two hearty, simple rolls (eight pieces each), a miso soup and a salad splashed with addictive miso dressing. Before ordering from the small counter to the right, don't underestimate the time needed to take in the much broader drink menu. Lunchtime? There's LaCroix, kombucha, a pot of French press loose leaf tea—even chocolate milk. If it's that kind of lunch, there's Asahi, sake by the carafe or the bottle, and a slew of Japanese whisky options.

(Christine Dong)
(Christine Dong)

That's as counter-y as it gets. The drinks and food are brought out to you based on the adorable seating numbers set in mini succulents. White ceramic plates, soy sauce decanters and utensils sit at each table. And if it's available, you can pass the brief time before your meal arrives playing a few rounds on the equally precious, tiny Super Nintendo Classic while you sip.

EAT: Fish & Rice, 332 NW Westover Road, 503-954-1270, fishnrice.com. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday.