It's only one week old, but Portland Knife House on SE Belmont is already a hot topic among local chefs, several of whom have been happily posting photos of their shiny new purchases on their social media feeds.
The sister location to Phoenix Knife House in Arizona, a boutique restaurant supply that owner Eytan Zias opened eight years ago, Portland Knife House is Zias' "passion project," a more selective and focused outlet that's aimed at industry professionals, though home cooks are more than welcome.
Zias and his wife, Joy, visited Portland a year-and-a-half ago, and immediately fell in love with the city. "We came here on our on our 'babymoon,'" says Joy. "We really just came to eat. We saw a lot of chefs, and a lot of their knives, and we thought, 'This is a place where we can set-up shop.'" They left the Phoenix store in the hands of long-time employees and made the move last fall, with their toddler in tow.
"This is more about me getting back behind the sharpening stones," says Zias. "That's my passion."
The store boasts 400 kinds of knives, mostly from Japan, with more on the way. And they come in a wide range of styles, sizes, and materials, including stainless steel, carbon, and carbon core. "We have an import deal with small makers in Japan," says Zias, "and some bigger makers that aren't household names here. Everything else is made locally." To that end, there are hand-forged knives from Murray Carter in Hillsboro, Adam Sigal's Station Knives made in SE Portland, and Arnon Kartmazov's Bridgetown Forge knives are on their way. Gorgeous locally made wood cutting boards, plus knife rolls, kitchen clogs, and Chefworks aprons round out the industry-oriented selection. "If you just got a job in a restaurant kitchen, you should be able to come in here and get everything you need," he says.
The knives are indeed gorgeous, but even though the selection is a fraction of what the Phoenix store sells, it's still a daunting array. Thankfully, Zias, who worked as a professional chef for over 10 years in some of New York's top kitchens (Aureole, Craft, La Cote Basque), says everyone on staff has cooked professionally, and is trained to help you find the right knife.
"It's very personal. We'll ask you questions about the kinds of knives you typically like, whether you're right or left-handed, things like that, then we'll pick out a selection for you to try."
And although Portland Knife House will happily hand-sharpen your knives, Zias says he'd much rather teach you to sharpen your own. "It gives you a relationship with your knives," he says. So the store will offer monthly stone-sharpening lessons using Japanese-based techniques.
"It's a full-service store," says Zias, "buying, hand-sharpening, fixing, customizing — just like we used to have."
Portland Knife House: 2637 SE Belmont St., Portland; 503-234-6397. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.