Friday, June 20, 2014

Portland Restaurant: Daruma

What: Daruma 
Where: 3520 NE 42nd Avenue (NE 42nd and Fremont)
When: Lunch 11:30-2:30pm, Dinner 5-9pm, 'late night' Omakase 9pm-close, Closed Sun & Mon
Honeys Heart: Sashimi

I love sushi. Almost as much as Adam does so we tend to have a lot of sushi when we go out. This date night was celebrating 14 years together so we decided to splurge at Daruma in northeast Portland.

This hole in the wall just off of NE Fremont has space at the bar and the window. We took a seat at the sushi bar, an excellent spot to view the techniques of the sushi chef since Adam is always trying to improve his at-home sushi skills.

We sat down around 8:30pm, but the omakase style option doesn't start until after 9pm, so we decided to order a few things to get started and then change to the chef's choice.

Off the appetizer section of the menu we went for the Inari ($4) described as "veggie rice pillows". At first we were suspect, but these were pretty delicious. They were like cold vegetable fried rice in a sweet tofu pocket. Okay, I'm not sure that description does them justice, but I really liked them.

We also ordered the Tsukemono ($4), a dish of house-pickled veggies. All good, but the radishes were probably my favorite.

Another procrastination technique was to order drinks. We started with some bubbly ($9) and a sake flight ($14).

Sake flights are proving to be a great way to learn which sake I like and don't like without committing to an entire glass. The flight included Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai ($8/glass) described as bright, hearty, musk; Minato ($11/glass) powerful, funky, minerals (the descriptions on the menu are quite helpful!) and another that I can't remember. I actually liked all three, while the Dewatsuru was Adam's favorite.

It was creeping up on 9pm but we couldn't wait any longer and ordered the Maguro ($16) aka tuna sashimi. I used to really be partial to nigiri versus sashimi, needing that bit of rice to soak up some sauce and provide some variation in texture, but I've grown to love the sashimi and prefer it now. The flavor of the fresh fish is really phenomenal.

Once it was finally 9pm, we went with about $35 each worth of omakase. Live it up, right?

To start we got miso soupedamame ($3), another bean of sorts that I'm having trouble recalling..., a cucumber salad, and sunomono ($4). The seaweed salad was a bit of a let down. I usually like it, but this one lacked flavor.

Following the array of veggies we got the Bincho - Albacore ($14) which was truly excellent and may have been ordered again towards the end.

To continue my sake education, I tried a few more samples and ended up going with the Denshin Ine Junmai ($9/glass) described on their menu as delicate, pretty, sprouts. It was light and refreshing.

After the albacore, the plates kept arriving with pieces of nigiri and two rolls. The only downside to the omakase style is that dishes just show up in front of you and unless you're paying attention (which at this point we were chatting up our neighbors at the sushi bar) you don't remember what you got!

Somehow I missed the photo op, but we also got the Hotate ($8 - scallop nigiri) which I was a bit nervous about, but the texture was soft and the flavor was creamy and buttery. I would definitely have it again. 

The downside to sushi is the bill at the end. We spent a pretty penny this night (it was a special occasion so it's okay, right?) but we could have toned it down and still had a great meal. I highly recommend the omakase option here (after 9pm) and at Boxer Sushi. Writing this makes me want more sushi...perhaps for my birthday next weekend!