One of my quests since moving to Oregon has been trying to find good Japanese food. Real Japanese food. While trying to avoid sushi roll places and trendy fads. But in Portland, some things become fads because there is some good in them.
So when Ryan Roadhouse started Nodoguro Pop-up dinners I knew I would have to check it out. Because he has worked at Portland's notable sushi restaurants Masu and Bamboo. And it turns out a lot more places including time spent in Kyushu, Japan.
Here is Ryan preparing the first dish for the evening. Pop-up dinners are an interesting thing. Often they are created to go outside of the box of having a restaurant where dinners order from a menu. For now, each month at Nodoguro there is a theme which inspires the dishes which will be served. For September it was "My Neighbor Totoro" and other Hayao Miyazaki films. Which was the reason I decided to sit down for my second pop-up dinner.
Pop-up dinners are an interesting experience. You really are betting on the chef since one doesn't usually know the dishes that will be served when making a reservation and paying for the dinner. However most will try to accommodate dietary restrictions or at least state what they can do beforehand.
Since I had once enjoyed sushi prepared by Ryan at Masu and learned a little of his background with food I knew this would probably be a risk worth taking. Just seeing the little details of decor and place settings gave the feeling of rural (inaka) Japan, which was the setting for "My Neighbor Totoro".
One thing I noticed at the two pop-up dinners I attended is that because it's a smaller group of people who are there from start to finish it takes on the air of a dinner party.
Nodoguro is currently in the space that was Evoe. As part of their open kitchen they have two counters for preparing food. Here are plates waiting to hold our first treat from Phantom Rabbit Farm.
Behind us video from the movie was playing over a cute Totoro display.
First up was Phantom Rabbit Farm delicious fresh melon. Mark Wooten of Phantom Rabbit Farm was helping out with food preparation and offering information about what we were about to eat.
Ryan's first dish was Poached Octopus with Wasabi and Citrus. That is real wasabi which is nothing like that green stuff most places give. I rarely eat tako (octopus) but I did this time and can say it was tender and worked well with the poaching liquid.
Here is Ryan preparing our next dish.
Which was Tomato Oden with Ham and Eggs. That's egg yolk cream at the bottom and three year old aged ham from Phantom Rabbit Farm grated on top of the tomatoes. It may not look like much but this was really delicious. Even that little bit of ham provided immense flavor. I still remember how this dish taste and wish I knew how to make it because I'd love to eat it again.
Next up was Dungeness Crab and Fennel Sunomono with Uni wrapped in Kelp on top. The wakame at the bottom was shipped fresh from Japan. I was really looking forward to trying crab and fennel sunomono however the uni was a surprise. Another thing I have only tried once because it wasn't that good that time. However this was way above my prior experience.
Something I had heard of but never tried. Monkfish Liver (Ankimo) Torchon with Ground Cherry Miso. Make that two things I have not tried before. Ankimo is steamed and Nodoguro's version added ground cherries with miso as a sauce with a couple cherries on the side. Very unique.
It was difficult waiting for this. I was sitting right by these plates and the smell was wonderful.
It was Smoked Salmon and Nanban Carrots topped with Bachelor Buttons and Carrot Blossoms from Phantom Rabbit Farm. The salmon was smoked by Ryan after curing it in salt and then lees. Major umami going on here. I also liked how the rings on my piece lined up nicely with the rings on the plate.
That was followed by Ribs with Turnip, Miso and Walnut. Ryan's wife, who is hostess for Nodoguro, said this dish was a nod to the movie Spirited Away
In the movie the older daughter Satsuki makes a bento for each family member. Seeing a bento on the menu made me wonder what our bento would be like. This is the Salted Mackerel Bento with an Italian Plum. The rice was seasoned with salt and vinegar and it worked just right. Really the best bento I have ever had.
Heading toward the end we were served Tamago Sushi. Ryan is an experienced sushi chef and was busy with a knife and rice with this. But where is the rice?
He made cuts in each piece and stuffed the rice inside.
Almost through this delicious and well prepared meal we were served Acorn, Figs and Honey with popped Soba (buckwheat). Acorns from Totoro. As for the popped soba? I need to find out how to do this because it's another thing I want more of.
We ended with a Moon Manju, made with a lima bean center with red bean (azuki) surround. For the mochi pounding rabbit in the moon. Which I think was from Behind the Museum Cafe where the tea was from too.
As you can tell by the longer than usual post, I really enjoyed this dinner. Ryan Roadhouse is able to take good local ingredients and his knowledge of Japanese cooking and put it together to create a wonderful meal. If you are ever in Portland, Oregon, and want to experience this, check out Nodoguro's web page for reservation information. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
「のどぐろ」は3735 SE Hawthorne ブルバードにあり、皆様のお越しをお待ちしております。座席数が限られております。ご予約はhttp://nodoguropdx.com/からどうぞ。皆様のお越しをお待ち申し上げます。