Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Harajuku by Way of Nodoguro

Let me try to write something. About the latest incarnation of Nodoguro's theme dinners. This time Chef Ryan Roadhouse takes us to Harajuku.

Harajuku is known for a lot of things but it's most famous for now is fashion.

In the 1970's fashion shops began catering to younger people in the Harajuku area, especially near Takeshita Street. Harajuku fashions took off and are now known world wide.

  So with that in mind, Elena Roadhouse decorated Nodoguro in a style that brings to mind the color and flash of Harajuku with lights, parasols and fabric draped across the ceiling.

Part of the decor were fashion photos reminiscent of street snaps in Japanese fashion magazines.

Along with fashion related books like the Fresh Fruits look book and little Pullip dolls.

I decided to check out what drinks Beverage Director Paul Willenberg selected. I couldn't help but notice the James Beard Foundation Award 2015 Semifinalist Award. Congrats to Chef Roadhouse for this! I think it would be okay for them to splurge on a proper frame for it.

Wines and sake for the pairings with the Harajuku dinner.

The sake which I will post a bit about with the food since I was able to taste these three.

Along with the 2013 "Idiot's Grace" Memloose Riesling.

First up though everyone was given a glass of Johan Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir Petillant Naturel. According to Paul this is naturally fermented in the bottle. I found it light and fruity with a well rounded aftertaste. It was a nice start to the meal since the first course was sashimi. Also pink and sparkly goes with the Harajuku theme.

I sipped the effervescent pinot noir while looking over the night's menu. One thing that isn't mentioned when people talk about Nodoguro's theme dinners is that in Japan, theme restaurants are popular. From ninjas to prisons, butler cafes and Alice in Wonderland, to the new Kawaii Monster Cafe, theme dining is very Japanese. So it's fun to see it happening here with Nodoguro which has turned their themes back to Japan with Harajuku. The menu showed even more hints of that.

First up was this lovely Sea Bream sashimi with Citrus and Wasabi.

The sea bream was lightly poached to soften the skin and dressed with yuzu and aged shoyu. A nice start to the dinner and the fruit of the sparkling pinot noir meshed well with it.

This was quickly followed by Akimo Tofu with Ground Cherry salsa. Topped with ikura, water pepper blossoms and halved ground cherries. Very smooth and the akimo did not overwhelm the tofu. I understand some of the dinners will have Uni Tofu which is also delicious. Chef Roadhouse makes this tofu himself.

The drink chosen to pair with this and the next dish was the 2013 Memloose Riesling "Idiot's Grace". Paul notes that this is an off dry and slightly sweet wine with long yet bright apple notes. I found it to be sweet and felt it was a nice contrast to the curry flavor of the third serving.

While diners debated whether to use chopsticks or spoons to eat their tofu. Chef Roadhouse and Sous Chef Colin Yoshimoto plated up our next course.


Which was Curry Mackerel Sunomono. Curry is popular in Harajuku like all parts of Japan. One of the more popular restaurants in Harajuku is Curry Up, owned by Nigo, the founder of A Bathing Ape which is a popular Japanese fashion line. The mackerel was salt cured and air dried then grilled. it was dressed in a clarified curry vinegar and topped with kewie berries, kabocha Japanese pumpkin and carrot. The people sitting next to me loved this dish. I have to say Chef Roadhouse makes the best mackerel I have had the pleasure to eat. Something to note, last year he made another curry vinegar which was amazing. Comparing that to this, the curry flavor stood out even more as if it was another style of curry. I'm impressed.


This was followed by the Winter Squash Chanko Cup. Chanko is a type of hot pot popularized by sumo wrestlers. Nodoguro's version was more of a miso soup. Made with organic white miso, grilled Japanese nagi and winter squash from Phantom Rabbit Farm. The winter squash was below the nagi and was very pretty. I forgot to take a photo of it.

The drink pairs moved into sake. The choice for this and the next dish was Yonetsuru Junmai Daiginjo "Long Life" from Yamagata Prefecture. Diners commented this was a nicely rounded sake. I found it balanced with a touch of sweet fruit. A good choice for the milder flavors of these dishes.

Also nicely paired with the Banana Fish with Walnut. Banana Fish was an older pop Japanese clothing line with kawaii character-based clothing designs so the name was a reference to that. The fish was Amberjack dressed with hyssop, walnutes and dehydrated bananas which were rehydrated and miso. A fun dish with surprising flavor. Very youthful feeling to this but not overly sweet which one would think would happen with bananas as an ingredient. I felt with dishes like this and the akimo tofu Chef Roadhouse was stretching his culinary repertoire and we were the lucky recipients of that.

I think the Yum Yum Yummy Pork was one of my favorites of the dinner. It's Chef Roadhouse's nod to gyoza. Harajuku has a very popular gyoza restaurant called Gyozaro so it's no surprise a dish like this showed up on the menu. Kakuni Pork belly roasted and then rested in sake and shoyu circled by a special gyoza sauce along with mustard blossoms, sesame paste, garlic chips and green onion. The gyoza sauce was the best I have had. Really brought the delicious pork to a new level and if I could have that instead of bbq sauce from now on I'd be happy. Amazing umami flavor with this dish.

With the stronger flavors of course the sake choice had to have more going for it. The choice was Ohyama Junmai Ginjo "Fu-In", also from Yamagata Prefecture. Both this and the first sake are from older well established breweries. I found this sake to have a bolder flavor than the first with a bite of pepper when it was first served. I later had a small cup of it that had been out for a little bit and found it had mellowed and I could taste more of fruit. It was a very pleasant sake to sip.

We were then treated to Takoyaki with Tomato and Avocado. This looks like a simple dish but trust me it was more complex than it appears. The octopus was massaged with salt, pouched 18 hours then grilled. Underneath is the avocado along with cherry tomatoes from Phantom Rabbit Farm, coriander seeds and everything was dressed wtih vinegar and yuzu. I rarely eat octopus not just out of concern for the species but also because most of the time it's not well prepared and is tough. Not this time. Nodoguro achieved extreme tenderness with their Takoyaki. Another first rate creation.

Paired with this was a Johan Pinot Noir Nils Reserve from 2008. I did not get to taste this which I regret now since I enjoy a good Pinot Noir. The notes from Paul for this wine are that it is 100% organic and biodynamic and has notes of cool mint and blackberry.

Meanwhile Master Sushi Chef Ryan Roadhouse was preparing the futomaki rolls for our Moshi Moshi Box Bento.

While not actually in a box, it was a play on a bento box meal with pickled red radish and myoga ginger, futomaki, and chantrelles in miso butter. There were suppose to be matsutake mushrooms but somehow chantrelles ended up on our plates. I did not complain at all. They were delicious.

The pickles were fresh and sour. Inside the futomaki was parsnip, mizuna and I thought I heard pressed kombujima which would be island kombu kelp. No matter what, this was another fun playful dish as reflected in it's name Moshi Moshi. Which is how people say "hello" on the phone in Japan.

A fun sake was the last drink pairing for the night. From another older sake brewer in Tosa, Kochi Prefecture, Tsukasabotan Yamayuzu Shibori "King of the Peony" sake. Yamayuza is mountain yuzu, a citrus fruit like a sweet lemon. While not as sweet as say a Mike's Hard Lemonade, this is reminiscent of that style of drink. It's a lighter sake with less alcohol and I would not be surprised if this was created with younger people in mind. 

I found it a refreshing palate cleanser and a nice way to end the evening. It went nicely with the sweet Eggs & Things Omelet (also known as Tamagoyaki) which you can see in my prior Nodoguro posts. Would you believe there is an Eggs N Things pancake restaurant in Harajuku? It's a branch of the Hawaii Eggs N Things and very popular there.

Last but not least was dessert and I would have felt a little sad if there wasn't a nod to Japanese Crepes on the menu. For me they rank as one of the best sweet tooth treats and can be found in Harajuku at places like the colorful Angel Heart Creperie and Marion Crepes. Nodoguro's spin on this was Toasted Corn Crepe and Apricot Frozen Cream. Freshly made apricot ice cream sprinkled with kinako floated in black sugar syrup. Swooping on top was a crepe made from spina rossa corn which was ground by Mark Wooten of Phantom Rabbit Farm. A rather adventurous twist which worked deliciously creating a sweet nod to dessert crepes.

While dinners sipped a cup of tea I caught this young man looking like he had a bit much to drink. Thankfully none of the dinners appeared to be in a similar state.

Another delicious Japanese meal created by Chef Ryan Roadhouse and crew. For me it was a little over a year ago I started attending Nodoguro and it's interesting to see how it's progressed. Besides the deserved accolades, Nodoguro is growing not just in popularity but in the complexity of the dishes. It will be interesting to see how things progress from here.

Nodoguro is a small creative Japanese restaurant at 3735 SE Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. To attend just make a reservation at their ticket page here. This is also where they put up tickets for their Hardcore Sushi dinners. To find out when those and new dinner tickets are listed you can sign up for their news letter here.

 「のどぐろ」レストランは伝統的な日本料理をベースとしたクリエィティブでユニークなスタイルの創作料理で皆様をおもてなしいたします。
日本のファントムラビット牧場から直輸入した和の食材や、地元の旬の肉や魚を使ったお料理を季節やテーマに合わせてご提供いたします。
夕食には数量限定のおまかせ寿司もご用意しております。

シェフのライアン・ロードハウスは福岡で修業後、地元ポートランドの日本食レストラン「やざくさ」、「ます」で修業を重ね、「のどぐろ」を開店いたしました。
「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。
 Thank you for reading my blog. Pardon any typos or misspellings since it took me a bit of time to write this and now it is late once again.

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