Let's get one thing out of the way: If this were a dining room beauty contest, Shizuku might be our No. 1 pick. First opened by chef and owner Naoko Tamura in 2008, a 2016 redesign by noted Tokyo architect Kengo Kuma, who's currently working on the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has transformed the space into a must-see restaurant in Portland. It's also simultaneously a culinary hub for the Oregon-Japanese community. The result is like someone opened a wormhole between Jefferson Street and Tokyo—the place is utterly transportive and a wholly welcome escape from the sights and sounds of local life.
There is a reason Tamura caters meals for every Delta flight from Portland to Tokyo. She has an exquisite touch when it comes to Japanese cuisine made with Pacific Northwest ingredients. And you really must go to Shizuku twice to experience it—once for lunch and again for dinner.
In the daytime, order one of the many offered trays—a riff on traditional bento box—and don't skimp on the sides, which range from $2 to $5. You'll be rewarded with crispy shrimp tempura, hearty slices of country tamagoyaki (a Japanese sweet omelet) flecked with bits of vegetable and a wonderfully soft steamed shumai dumpling. For your main, pick one of the daily specials. Shizuku's skill with a fryer is demonstrated in a perfectly battered oyster ($26) or rockfish done karaage-style ($25), with spicy tsukemono pickles. The rest of the tray includes brown rice, a fresh market salad with miso vinaigrette and a small cup of miso soup. Show me a classier lunch anywhere in town.
The dinners are done in the tradition of kaiseki, which includes several courses with a heavy emphasis on presentation and aesthetics. At $65 per person, it's one of the city's best values for a multidish meal, and you can expect seasonally changing offerings like tuna and miso carpaccio, fried zucchini, mussels udon and an elaborate nine-item shokado tray with delicate bites. Gratuity is tastefully included, so with a drink or two, dinner here tops out at around $100. That's cheaper than a flight to Tokyo, and nearly as essential.
Pro tip: With due respect and then some to this restaurant, beverages aren't the focus here. But for a truly exquisite, sensorial experience, bring along a bottle of Champagne and pay the $25 corkage fee. Sparkling wine will cruise with this food, and a bottle shared between two diners should get you through the full meal.