Boxer Sushi/ SE Portland--20th and Hawthorne
Ian Skomski at Boxer Sushi in SE Portland is a master. My girlfriend and I had dinner there Friday, July 19 and we were treated with such care. The shushi was divine, fresh and spiced perfectly. The omakase or "I'll leave it to you" at $38 per person is worth it. Miso soup, a gorgeous fresh greens salad, then waves of sublime sushi, and an end of ice cream stuffed in little fruit graced the plates served to us. We sat at the bar near Ian and were able to talk to him as the restaurant was not its usual packed atmosphere. Go early if you want to meet Ian. The restaurant opens at 5:30.
We have become very lucky in Portland...for years we had very little on the ball in regard to great quality sushi in this town. Now, there are actual choices among some very good restaurants.
I like Boxer a lot. I think that the omakase at $38 is an excellent deal and the way to eat here. Boxer does a lot of very interesting preps. The preps are a bit untraditional and feature many ingredients on a plate - they work, and they are delicious, but it might not be everyone's style of sushi. They have recently added to their sake list, which was a good choice, and I hope for an even bigger sake selection in the future, it is one of the things (along with fairly uncomfortable chairs) that is , IMO, keeping this place from being my absolute favorite in town...but it is definitely my second favorite...and it is a fairly close second at that, I really do like the place a lot.
My fave, though, is Hokusei, on SE Belmont near 42nd. More traditional approach, excellent sake selection, bigger selection of specials (many fish which I had never had before), more comfortable room. Happy hour on Monday - all day - gets you 15% of all rolls and nigiri, plus there is a small happy hour menu (though they serve their whole menu too). I also like that they serve nigiri by the piece, instead of by the pair - you can try a lot more different types of fish that way. Also, their cooked offerings can be very good - their chawanmushi is excellent, and the fish collar (I've seen both salmon and hamachi as choices) is also delicious.
I used to like Bamboo and it was really the best in town, IMO, for a while...but the waits, and the almost never changing menu, and the price tag/value leave a bit to be desired. With Hokusei and Boxer around, I can't imagine I'll be going back to Bamboo anytime soon. I am sure it is still a decent choice, it's just that I think Hokusei and Boxer are better choices.
I like the food at Mirukatei, but I really hate the space - the counter, the tables, the overall atmosphere...just not a fan. The "new style" untraditional plates there can be very, very good, though. I'm not a huge fan of ramen (it is a specialty there), though if you are, it might be a great choice for both sushi and ramen.
Another place I like is Kurata, in Lake Oswego. But I rarely get out that way these days, and it's not worth the trip just for a meal there. Still, this tiny mom and pop sushi joint is a great choice if you are in the area. They also do a great job on their chawanmushi, and their maguro somisoae is a must order for anyone who loves tuna (cubes of tuna in a miso marinade).
Murata, is the best place to go for the traditional tatami room experience. In fact, it is probably the most traditional spot in town. They also do a great cooked salmon collar (and it is a great value), and their smoked salmon nigiri and eel nigiri are some of the best around. They also do a nice cooked portion of matsutake mushrooms when they are in season. Overall, though, this place can be hit or miss these days. And if there is a show at the Keller, it is really crowded before curtain times...plan accordingly.
And how nice is this, actual discussion about restaurants in Portland by those of us who live here?! ;o)