I figured as much, Ian said, after I told him I was from New York City. Each sushi on the menu was priced at $2. Two dollars! I’m used to paying $5 a piece and up to $11 for an otoro, so you can imagine the kind of gasp I let out that elicited such a comment from Ian, the sushi chef. We had three hours before our flight back to the concrete jungle, so Sam decided to take us to one of his favorite sushi places in Portland before driving us to the airport. Three of us sat at the sushi bar in the back and ordered the omakase with several kinds of sake. Ian performed the rest of the night.
Pine nuts gave the tombo tuna tartare more texture. Lotus root chips and endives were used to scoop them up. If sports bars served snacks like this, I’d be watching more sports. Next came the tuna and salmon carpaccio with finely chopped shiso leaf and a cute toasted garlic sliver on top. I was surprised at how the garlic gave a nice kick to the big pieces of sashimi. The amberjack was folded like a fortune cookie, served with chives and chili threads. Just a touch of sweet soy gave the fish its needed moisture. The salmon sushi was just salmon sushi and the yellowtail was just yellowtail, but that may be why Ian thought about making the next dish so complicated: he spiced up some octopus, wrapped it in seaweed, wrapped that in tuna and topped everything with tobiko.
When I thought we were done, the Dr. asked to taste the scallops. So Ian created a big roll for him while he indulged me with the most decadent shot of sake I’ve ever had–it had swimming oyster, uni and raw quail egg in it. (That was for the reader who told me to try oyster shooter the next time I get a chance.) As usual, we ended with a maki of shiso leaf to cleanse the palate, but Sam opted for the French toast with maple syrup and whipped cream. Sam thought he was also on vacation.
There was nothing sublime about the fish at Yakuza but everything was fresh and beautifully cut. Ian gave us his complete attention during our time at the sushi bar and made us visitors feel like there’s no reason to go back home. At less than $190 for all the fish we ate and all the sake we drank, even I couldn’t complain. Did I already say that the west coast is starting to become more appealing?
Yakuza is at 5411 NE 30th Avenue in Portland, Oregon. We walked in without reservations, but for busier nights, call 503/450.0893.
Eating in Portland, Oregon: clarklewis