Japanese food jewel Nodoguro is back—at least through the end of July. After a yearlong hiatus, it is opening four nights a week in the Northeast Portland space once occupied by DOC and Nonna.
Operators Ryan and Elena Roadhouse closed their lauded, intimate and innovative restaurant during the pandemic. Nodoguro was formerly located on Southeast Belmont Street in the old Genoa space. Their five-year lease there expired in February 2021. Before shutting down completely, the Roadhouses tried various alternatives to Nodoguro’s long-format sushi, modified kaiseki and themed meals. Those efforts didn’t pan out financially or emotionally.
Since the shuttering, the Roadhouses have focused on building Elena Roadhouse’s wellness business, Eleusis (eleuisway.com), as they surveyed potential locations for a post-COVID Nodoguro revival.
Ryan Roadhouse tells WW that “the pandemic definitely changed our thinking.” Instead of looking to sign up for a standard five-year term, they are far more interested in returning to Nodoguro’s pop-up roots. The current arrangement is temporary, what Ryan likens to a “guest chef” appearance, while he and Elena sniff out something more fixed, but not long term.
The decision to get back into the business now represents the Roadhouses’ “post-pandemic thinking.” Although Ryan acknowledges a vocal segment of Portland diners still want takeout and outside dining options, his sense from talking to his customers is that the 15- to 20-seat indoor operation, with diners seated at tables arrayed around the perimeter of the premises for a formal meal, is the right way for the Nodoguro reboot. So, outdoor service is out, though brunch may get a try down the road.
During the peak of Nodoguro’s initial run, former WW editor Matthew Korfhage wrote: “Nodoguro is not about sushi.” Others “can equal Nodoguro” in that regard, “but nowhere in the city, or maybe even the country, can approach what Roadhouse achieves with his otherworldly sousaku (creative) plates.”
The new venue will meld the former “Supahardcore” sousaku format with Nodoguro’s equally eye-opening themed meals over approximately 20 courses. The debut run, “Izakaya in the Canaries,” will draw from Ryan’s experience last November cooking at a Spanish-sponsored event in the islands off the North African coast.
“Expect a contemporary approach to Japanese food,” Ryan says. Tickets are $195 per person.
Even though the Nodoguro reboot has not been mentioned in mainstream media until now, the initial two weeks of dinners have sold out. More dates could go on sale as early as Monday, May 23, on the business’s website. Roadhouse also suggests that prospective patrons subscribe to Nodoguro’s newsletter for information.
If the latest iteration is anywhere close to the caliber of the original, a meal at the new Nodoguro will remain a justifiably hot ticket.
EAT: Nodoguro, 5513 NE 30th Ave., nodoguropdx.com. Thursday-Sunday (ticketed dinners only).