After half a century working in Japanese restaurants, Hiroshi Ikegaya is ready to slow down. Ikegaya, who grew up in Hokkaido, has worked in, owned, and made sushi for Japanese restaurants for decades, a lauded name within local sushi circles. Known for the closed Hiroshi sushi bar and its living relative, Mirakutei, Ikegaya slowly started to step away from his restaurants over the last three years. Still, he didn’t want to leave without one last swan song.
Momoyama, the new restaurant from another Portland sushi legend, Heemoon “Scott” Chae, is just that: a high-end Japanese spot with an extensive sushi menu, Japanese whisky, and uni-topped squid ink pasta. Ikegaya has joined Chae in the kitchen, designing intricate omakase menus and building a stunning sushi list.
Momoyama comes from the team behind Yama Sushi, which operates locations in both Southeast Portland and the Pearl District. The first location opened in 2010, but soon the restaurant became one of the city’s top sushi spots, with delicately sliced geoduck and little curls of uni on gently pressed beds of rice. Chae became a star, named by critics at the Oregonian and Willamette Week. Years later, Chae opened Yama Izakaya in Southeast, serving crowd pleasers like karaage and agedashi tofu as well as tonkotsu ramen.
Meanwhile, Ikegaya had developed his own band of loyal devotees for his restaurants, especially Hiroshi. He was often seen as one of the fathers of Portland’s modern Japanese cuisine, and when Mirakutei opened years later, it became a stalwart for both sushi aficionados and ramen-heads. In 2018, he sold the restaurant to Job Martinez, planning to semi-retire. Instead, he joined Chae in opening Momoyama.
Momoyama is, first and foremost, a Japanese restaurant, but it strays into more global-pantry territory: Chae tops squid ink pasta with sea urchin butter, uses yuzu for a take on salmon ceviche, and places an American wagyu tartare in the center of bibimbap. Momoyama also incorporates luxurious ingredients like truffles, lobster, and foie gras in everything from nigiri and maki to skewers of wagyu. The restaurant’s selection of high-quality beef — Miyazaki A5 wagyu steak, American-style “kobe” strip loin from Snake River Farms— appears as a standalone option by the ounce, in tartare, and sliced for nigiri or sashimi.
The sushi selection is similarly ritzy, with a number of different omakase options from Ikegaya. His sushi menu is extensive, with everything from uni dotted with salmon roe to spot prawns to striped bass with truffle oil. Those who are looking for elaborate maki will also find an array of rolls — spicy tuna topped with seared wagyu, crab and avocado rolls with baked lobster, and hokkaido scallop rolls draped in layers of yellowtail, tuna, and fried shallot chips.
Momoyama’s bar is stocked with a number of bottles of sake, listed by style: unpasteurized namazake, cloudy sakes, earthy and dry sakes, smooth sakes, expressive and aromatic sakes, available in flights, by the glass, or by the bottle. Outside of sake, the spirit list specializes in Japanese whisky, gin, and vodka, including a number of Suntory Yamazakis and Nikka spirits. They’re available straight, in flights, or in cocktails — For instance, the bar’s Toki Julep blends Suntory Toki Whisky, lime, and shiso-infused syrup.
The restaurant is open for takeout and dine-in at 1022 NW Johnson Street.
• Momoyama [Official]