In need of a short break, the Missus and I decided that yours truly should take a short vacation to recharge. The last real trip I took was a week long trip to Washington D.C. over two years ago, and other than short road trips to Mountain View, Yuma, and many trips to LA, I've been at home. I decided to visit a city that I've always wanted to visit; Portland(the Oregon version). This trip was mainly for pleasure, and I really didn't do too much research. I did come up with a short list of places to eat, and a rather long list of places to visit. I'll do a non-food post on those a bit later.
I arrived at the Marriott City Center at almost 3 pm, checked in, took a quick shower, and was on my way. The first thing I noticed was how very kind all the drivers were; pedestrians are treated with a great deal of respect; cars almost always stop in drive ways to let pedestrians cross. And no honking!
After reading a short description in the Willamette Week, I decided on Restaurant Murata.
Even though I was advised to take the Portland Streetcar down to SW Market Street, I decided to walk. Though the walk was about 15 blocks, the distance was only about a mile, and took a leisurely half hour. Next observation about Downtown Portland; the "blocks" are small, and Portland is a great walking town. Along with the small blocks, there are no steep hills to tax you.
When Murata opened, I entered and seated at the small(about 8-10 seats) sushi bar, by the traditionally dressed Server. The restaurant is quite small, and there are 3 Tatami Rooms located to one side of the restaurant. I haven't seen one of those in years. As I sat Murata-san was very busy doing prep work.
As I sat I looked over the grease board "specials".
To my surprise, I was handed a sushi order sheet, even though I was seated at the bar.
So I placed my sushi order, got a Sapporo, sat back and watched Murata-san work. Murata-san did his thing with methodical speed, quick, measured, and precise. Soon, I figured the reason for the order sheet; Murata-san didn't seem to speak much English.
On to the fish. First off the Maguro(tuna) and Hamachi(yellowtail):
The Hamachi was good, with a nice texture and good flavor. The Maguro was way too cold, a trend I've noticed recently. Not too bad overall, but not great. I'd also started to notice that Murata-san is sometimes very heavy-handed with the wasabi, which kills much of the flavor. If I don't know an Itamae, I usually just use the slightest touch of shoyu with my Nigiri. Depending on initial tastes, I may end up not using any shoyu at all. I'll use fresh wasabi, but am really not into the wasabi slurry. On the positive side; I enjoyed the way the Nigiri was put together, a nice balance of fish to rice.
Obviously a piece of Chu-Toro(the portion towards the rear of the tuna belly). Frankly, not a great piece of fish. The texture of the Toro was much the same as the Maguro, not velvety, melt in your mouth smooth.
When I had been seated, I had noticed Murata-san working on some good looking Aji(Spanish Mackeral), so I made sure to to order some.
Topped with some grated ginger and green onions, each piece had an entire fillet of Aji on it. Murata-san turned to me and spoke for the first time, "ponzu?", I shook my head. No, these wonderful pieces of fish needed nothing. The flavor(no wasabi this time), was a perfect balance of oceany fishiness, provided by the pieces of skin left behind, along with the oily richness of the flesh. Delici-yoso!!!
I'm not sure if this was "local" Mirugai(Geoduck, Giant Clam), but it sure was good. Slightly sweet, and crunchy, but not hard. Very good.
The Shrimp were fresh, both tender and sweet, though one of the pieces of Nigiri had a ton of wasabi on it. Note to self; next time order everything with no wasabi.......
The Atama(heads) arrived a few minutes later:
Nicely fried up, and crunchy. Nice way to end my meal.
The tab? All the sushi and 2 Sapporo for $57, not cheap by any means, but a pretty nice meal.
Some notes on Murata: The restaurant is very small, but the menu is interesting, it's too bad that everyone was ordering smoked salmon, California and Rainbow Rolls. I've also heard that if you call in advance, you can order Kaiseki-ryori meals. I arrived right when Murata opened, when I left all the tables were filling up.
200 SW Market St
Portland, OR 97201
I had arrived to the area where Murata is located about a half hour early(see earlier note on the size of the city blocks), so I was able to take in some of the sights, such as the Ira Keller Memorial Fountain:
And a walk in Pettygrove Park. Did you know that Portland was named based on a coin-toss?
So I could've easily been visiting Boston, Oregon, instead of Portland. In peaceful Pettygrove Park is an interesting sculpture called The Dreamer:
Someone told me it's filled with urethane foam, so that when it rains, the drops don't make much noise.
After my meal, I walked on over to the Streetcar stop on the campus of Portland State University. Here's an earlier photo I took before dinner.
As I was sitting waiting for a Streetcar, a Gentleman came up to me and told me that the electricity was out down the line, and the Streetcars weren't stopping at this and other nearby stops. Here's where I come into contact with the wonderful Portland hospitality, he asked me if I'm from around here. When I replied "No, just visiting", He told me to follow Him, and we walked a few blocks to SW Clay Street and SW 10th Avenue, and caught the Streetcar there. As we were riding the Streetcar, he pointed out all the landmarks like the Portland Art Museum, and the Main Library. He also informed me of my stop, one of the main reasons I came to Portland:
And yes, it's all true; the bookstore takes up an entire city block. And yes, you do need a map to get around. And yes.....used books are mixed in with the new. And yes, I think there are people living in Powell's, that may have not left in years. I managed to tear myself away after 3 hours, and only spent about $50. The variety and quantity of books at Powell's is amazing, truly a book lover's mecca. And by the way, did you know that Ferrets have their own magazine!
Powell's City of Books
1005 W Burnside
Portland, OR 97209 USA