Oregon is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that some Portlanders aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food players to share their recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Kat Liebman and Zoe Hackett are the co-chefs of Northeast Killingsworth's year-and-half old, ever-so-cute French bistro, Cocotte. "Zoe and I spend most of our time in the Cocotte kitchen, working on new ideas and collaborating on techniques and flavor profiles," Liebman says. "When we aren't working, we try to get out and get inspired by other chefs and cuisines around town." And though Liebman says she's "totally enamored" with French haute cuisine, "I typically crave Asian flavors when I'm dining out. Specifically, Japanese food has been my go-to since I can remember." So when she's searching for an authentic experience, she heads to this newish Belmont spot (opened by a couple Hiroshi alums).
I was really sad to see Hiroshi in the Pearl shutter; it was my favorite place for omakase. So, when Hokusei was opened by Hiroshi alums, I was really excited; and they live up to every expectation! My favorite way to dine is to be able to get an endless parade of delicious little bites... typically what I crave is fresh, raw, savory, spicy... and Hokusei does it best. The typical menu is always delicious. Everything is incredibly fresh and perfectly prepared; my favorites are the saba sashimi, hotate nigiri, and ikura nigiri. Whatever the specials are, get them — especially if they have live amaebi. The shrimp are still alive when they are prepared... the heads come out with the nigiri, deep fried as a garnish. The shrimp itself is so tender and sweet — the perfect bite.
For me, the perfect way to end a meal here is with the red bean mochi ice cream. I had the most amazing red bean ice cream in Chicago when I was really young, and I feel like I've been looking for something like it ever since. Most Japanese restaurants in Portland don't seem to have any red bean desserts, so when I found Hokusei's red bean Mochi I was ecstatic! It's the perfect dessert, hands down. It's better than the memory I have of the best red bean ice cream in Chicago.