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Oct 24, 2008 08:46 PM

Not all about sushi - Japanese (PDX)

I'm a newbie here, but - - in a previous life, the Japanese restaurants we frequented were not all about the sushi. Hostesses in lovely kimonos provided gracious service. Excellent miso soup and a decent if very simple salad for starters, tempura that seemed lighter than air, some Teppanyaki....all in an atmosphere of tranquility. No requirement for shoe removal/floor seating. Can I find this type of Japanese in PDX proper? (Apologies if I just haven't read past the sushi reviews at Japanese eateries.) Thx!

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  1. there are several izakayas in portland. Tanuki, Biwa, Yuzu(beaverton), syun(hillsboro), but if nicer, more formal japanese is what youre looking for, what you need to find is a place with tatami rooms. Murata and Bush Gardens come to mind, with the former being far and away the best. In fact, Bush Gardens is pretty mediocre. Also Hiroshi is superb and has non sushi items.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nkeane

      Murata and Hiroshi both have great cooked items even though they are truly sushiya. As far as izakaya, nkeane's list is exactly what I would have written. Tanuki just got favorably reviewed by both the Oregonian and Willamette Week, and Biwa and Yuzu are both very good as well. All three of those izakayas couldn't be more different from each other, so I would recommend visiting all of them. Syun has some interesting stuff on the menu, but the difference between Yuzu and Syun in quality isn't worth the difference between Yuzu and Syun in distance; I just go to Yuzu.

      1. re: SauceSupreme

        My sister and I have been on a quest when I visit her in PDX to find a non-sushi Japanese restaurant with "real" Japanese food. Sukiyaki made at your table in a tatami room.....
        So far, it seems the izakayas are the best bets.
        We;ve been to Syun, Yuzu and Tanuki.
        I agree with SauceSupreme...Yuzu is the one to try out. They will take reservations, and I highly recommend you do so. I hope you speak some Japanese. Loved their deep fried Shiso/natto . Their kara age was crisp, garlicky and delish. Next time I will try their ramen. The bowls that came out looked wonderful.
        Syun is fine. But if I had to choose, it would be Yuzu.
        Tanuki...very, very interesting. A young chef all by herself in the kitchen with one waitress up front.
        When we were there in October, I think they told us they'd been open for 6 months.
        Interesting menu. Some fun stuff. Miso soup was terrible. Thick, stewy, sat in the pot way too long and too much stuff in it...
        Chef told me that she lived with a Japanese family in Ohio, and that was where she learned about Japanese food.
        She seemed to be trying to do some upscale presentations. We tend to go overboard when trying out new places, so the chef came out to bring us the beef "tatare",probably to see who ordered all this food at 2 in the afternoon.....
        I would like to check out Tanuki again, in a year, and see how far she has progressed. Personally, I think she is underpriced. But her $1 happy hour meat on sticks should do well with the sake and drinking crown.

    2. Hi, I am the PDX sister. When I first found out about Syun in Hillsboro I was delighted to have found such a wonderful authentic Japanese owned resturant. Yes, we have a large Korean population and the Korean Japanese cooking isn't quite the same as Japanese cooking style. (don't get me wrong its good, but different). They have wonderful sushi fresh as can be and I have never been disappointed. By the way, their miso soup is great! Having said so, I have to admit that Yuzu is much better when it comes to official izkaya style cooking. We are talking fresh off the stove/grill! they do not bring the next plate out until you have finished the one they served you. I love it there but it does get pricey! Tanuki was interesting, their happy hour from 2-5 is the way to go. I'd have to try it again to make the final judgement but I'm not sure I will be in a hurry to go back... if it were closer I probably would, but with Yuzu and Syun so mch closer and better I'd be frequenting them more often.