Portland, OR — Sushi is one of those foods you either love or you hate. I’ve always loved trying new rolls and nigiri, but I generally stay within the comforts of what I know. The boundaries of what I’m used too were broken Wednesday night at a small pop-up bar in Northwest Portland appropriately named Small Bar.
Chef Yoshi created a beautifully delicious 14-course Omakase dinner. It was an authentic Japanese food served fresh. The dinner was intimate, with an almost one-on-one feel with the chef who created dishes directly for you. There’s a certain joy in watching the chef make your meal and being able to ask questions about the process along the way.
Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you”, which in this case basically means “Chef’s choice”. Chef Yoshi created a memorable dining experience for everyone in the room and kept an open dialogue of every dish served. He is brilliantly creative and is a chef I would recommend to every sushi lover out there. He genuinely cared about each dish with no detail going unnoticed both aesthetically and flavor profile wise.
I learned that it was appropriate to eat sushi with your fingers in order to appreciate the temperature and texture of the nigiri. Every piece is created with care and genuine love for the art of sushi. The flavor profiles were perfect, and the umami flavor was brought out in each dish.
One of the dishes was a delicate and flavorful homemade tofu. Following that dish was fresh never-frozen albacore caught off the Oregon coast with shaved black truffles from Italy. I was nervous the truffles would have an over-powering flavor, but it was balanced perfectly with the tuna.
The next seven courses were variations of nigiri, and the location of where the fish was caught was mentioned before each dish. In order, Halibut, line-caught Horse mackerel, Sminaaji (similar to Horsemackerel), King Salmon, medium fatty tuna, albacore belly (seared with garlic butter to bring up the umami flavor), and last the dessert of nigiri, Sea Eel. The flavors were buttery and smooth.
We were then served a baked Dungeness crab hand roll wrapped in soy paper, which tasted incredible. After that, we had tamago, which is a type of Japanese omelet, and inside the tamago was Red Snapper. Next, we were given miso soup. I thought this was odd because soup is usually served before your meal starts, but I learned that traditionally in Japanese culture soup is served after your main course.
For dessert, we had daifuku, which looked similar to pancakes except these were made with matcha. They were stuffed with red bean paste, cream cheese, and strawberries and they tasted like heaven. Our dessert was served with a shot of sake, which was given out to everyone including the chef, to celebrate and compliment the amazing dinner that had just taken place.
This was the type of experience you don’t want to end. The food was so amazing that it will turn anyone from a sushi lover into a sushi snob but, in the best way. I believe it’s important to know where your food comes from, and the fish served was as fresh as could be. The source and how it was caught was known and had sustainability in mind.
If you live in Portland, Oregon I’d recommend checking out one of these pop-up events. It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss out on!