Review: Nodoguro Japanese restaurant

Reservations need to be made weeks in advance, assuming one can get tickets that are sold out within hours of being offered each month.  We enjoyed the “New Year” prix fixe tasting menu at Nodoguro.  It’s a 13 course kaiseki inspired dinner, made with some of the best ingredients; and a taste of real Japanese cooking, not otherwise found in Portland restaurants.

Chef Ryan Roadhouse serves 5-6 dinners each week, for up to 16 patrons seated at a counter; surrounding the area where Ryan plates each course, as his wife, Elena, cites the ingredients as she serves. There are three kinds of dinners, served on different days of the week: (1) themed dinners, (2) hardcore sushi, and (3) waygu beef supa dinners. The themed dinners change monthly;  for December, it was “New Year”.

For photos and description (in comments) of each of the 13 dishes, go here:

Nodoguro New Year dinner

Review: Yama Sushi and Izakaya

For my birthday dinner, Xue and I went to Yama Sushi on SE Clinton.  I started with Yoshi Dry Sake:

yama-1

The friendly waitress says the liquid in the box is sake (not water), and after the glass is finished; it can be poured into the glass, or drank out of the box.  Nice.

The Chirashi entree is quite filling.  A lot of varied seafood packed into this delicious box.  Especially good was the large and unctuous salmon eggs, plus uni that can be mixed with the underlying rice using chopsticks.

yama-2

For dessert, unfortunately, the anticipated Coffee Gilee was out. The waitress explained that the chef makes it on on Saturday, and it often runs out by Friday. She recommended the Strawberry Panna Cotta instead if we wanted a light dessert to suit the hot weather;  saying that it is lighter than the Italian version, and the housemade strawberry sauce is mixed with balsamic vinegar to tone down the sweetness. Mix the three layers together for the best taste, she suggested.  Excellent recommendation.

yama-3

Xue had the Nikumiso (spicy ground pork) ramen, and rainbow roll (mango, avocado, and spicy tuna) which she enjoyed (sorry no photos).

Review: EC Kitchen

Jan V. and I ventured to EC Kitchen, a Taiwanese restaurant, next door to Chinese Delicacy.  EC Kitchen is known for unadorned, clean, non-greasy Taiwan style food.  We arrived at noon, and saw a single fellow diner, who had ordered beef noodle soup enhanced with tomato.  It looked very hearty, but neither one of us felt hungry, and decided to order appetizers from their nice photo menu.

Chewy tofu and steamed buns:

Scallion pancakes:

Taiwan style sweet sausage (options: spicy sausage & Cantonese style):

Chive pocket:

Pork belly bun with pickled veggies and cilantro:


Turnip cake is not pictured, but very good.

We enjoyed the shared appetizers, and rate it a JV “2”;  and probably a “3” for well prepared and healthier food. We need to return and try some of their entrees.  The beef shank noodle soup sounds good.  Their signature items (preservative free sausage, beef shank, and turnip cake) are available in refrigerated units for take out.

Portland Dining Month 2016 — the best

Portland Dining Month includes more than 120 restaurants offering three-course $29 meals in March.  One might comb through the list, to find where $29 might yield an exceptional dining experience. Fortunately, Portland Monthly and The Oregonian have done that for us:

Portland Monthly Magazine’s top ten  [here]

The Oregonian’s top fifteen [here].  This is hard to read!

Common to both lists are six:  Aviary, Laurelhurst Market, Little Bird, Paley’s Place, St. Jack’s, and Xico.  Not on either list, but one I visited and wrote about is the Japanese influenced Pono Farm Soul Kitchen.

Review: Pono Farm Soul Kitchen

Pono Farm Soul Kitchen, in Hollywood district, serves Japanese influence comfort food in manageable portions.  Our group of six ordered the Portland Dining Month “3 Courses for $29” dinner [Dining Month Menu]

My first course, Kakuni (braised pork belly) was flavorful and so tender, that I could break it up into pieces and eat with my chopsticks.  Each small piece was deliciously satisfying infused with a sweet soy flavor.  It was served with half a soft-boiled egg, and apple/miner’s lettuce salad:

2016-pork-belly

The other appetizer selected was Tempura soft-shell crab, with shaved fennel salad, grapefruit, and orange vinaigrette.  Ling says it was “nicely mixed flavors, crab was well cooked: tender under a crunchy not soggy crust, might have been nice to have the glaze as a dipping sauce rather than on the bottom of the bowl”:

2016-soft-shell

My main course, pork chop, was a bit dry, and the “pea & foie gras sauce” failed to elevate it into a memorable dish.  It was served with garlic mashed potatoes and pea shoots:

2016 pork-chop

Note: others who ordered the Braised Black Cod served with bowl of steamed rice were much happier with their choice. The kumquat puree sauce was a great complement to the tender soy and sake braised cod:

2016-black-cod

The dessert: tropical fruits, pomegranate seeds, and yuzu cream over a sake jelly was another hit.  It was not overly sweet. The six of us all enjoyed it.  It was the only dessert option:

mde

7:30pm on a Saturday night was quite busy, and the bar was backlogged. The drinks arrived after the food. Despite the backlog, we had excellent service.  The noisy acoustics was not the best for conversation, but we all enjoyed the evening.

 

Review: Marukin Ramen

Marukin Ramen, a new restaurant with headquarters in Tokyo, opened in S.E. Portland a couple of weeks ago.  They’re still going through their soft opening with limited menu selection, with Grand Opening on April 1, 2016. Xue and I visited them yesterday for lunch.  We arrived at 11:40am, and were about fifth in line to order, with lots of available seating.  By the time we left, the line was stretched long, and seating was becoming scarce.  All ramen was $10.00 a bowl.  Xue ordered the Miso, because it didn’t have shoyu listed in the soup base, and she wanted to skip the extra sodium. Broth: “Miso in chicken and Carlton Farms pork bones base”.

Marukin-miso

I ordered the Tokyo Shoyu.  Broth: “Clear chicken and Carlton Farms pork bone broth base with shoyu”.

Marukin-tokyo

Xue was envious of the soft-center egg and two cuts of chashu pork.  We sampled each other’s, and both prefer the clear Tokyo Shoyu broth. The spinach and menma (bamboo shoots) were fresh tasting. The egg has nice, runny yolk.  The chashu was okay.  I also ordered a side of chicken karaage for $8.  The nuggets were crunchy on outside, and moist and tender inside with garlic added to the batter for taste.

A view from the entrance, as we left:

Marukin-entrance

I can see how Marukin wold work in Tokyo to get salaryman in and out quickly during a lunch break.  No time to linger as efficient staff is there to whisk away your ramen bowl (even though you haven’t slurped the last drop of broth).

Bottom line:  Good, but we prefer Mirakutei (around the block).  We need to come back to try the Tonkotsu Shoyu (John) and Marukin Red (Xue – Tonkotsu made spicy).  Probably after the Grand Opening.  That may level the playing field.

Review: Yama Sushi (on S.E. Clinton)

Xue and I went on Saturday night, and enjoyed it.  I liked that we could make reservations on-line for prime time (7:15pm) on the same day.  It has attractive decor;  acoustics were good;  the tables were not as squeezed as the Pearl location;  and the staff busy but efficient.  Since it was an izakawa, I thought I’d order the house hot sake, which was good.   I was eager to try the hamachi collar, but alas, they were out;  so I order the whole quail instead:



Thinking quail wasn’t going to be enough, I also order a salmon nigiri, and chawanmushi (Egg Custard w/ Shrimp, Crab, Shitake Mushroom, Chicken, Greens:



Xue ordered the Sunrise roll (salmon, spicy tuna, mango, avocado):

with cold spinach and sesame paste salad:



We finished with the coffee jelly & cream dessert, which was delicious:



​For me, the highlight of the meal was the coffee jelly dessert, followed by the chawanmushi, with its delicate egg custard, crab, and shrimp.  Too Yama was out of hamachi collar;  the grilled quail was not a good substitute.  But a reason for another visit.