A vegan and gluten-free sushi pop-up serving in vegetable-centric specialty rolls, squash-based spicy “tuna,” and sunomono salad will begin this Saturday at Ruse Brewing in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
The new concept by sushi industry vets Nino Ortiz and Summer Ortiz gets its name Mitate — which loosely translates to “seeing things with a new perspective” — from Japanese art theory. The couple is applying that concept to their culinary work, seeing sushi — a traditionally seafood-heavy cuisine — anew as produce-centric creations. Together, the duo brings over a decade of sushi experience to the table: Nino Ortiz was a sushi chef at Bamboo Sushi and Yoshi’s food truck, while Summer Ortiz was a general manager at Bamboo Sushi. “We never wanted to be in charge,” Nino Ortiz explains. “We want to be always learning, and we want to build a name for ourselves as our sushi is so different.”
Although the couple is not vegan, the two have family members who are. The base menu for Mitate was born in 2019, when Nino Ortiz decided to make a vegan sushi dinner for Thanksgiving with Summer Ortiz’s vegan mother and sister. “It was just a passion project until we realized we may have some special recipes,” says Nino.
When Portland went into lockdown due to COVID-19, the pair saw an opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen to dial in their recipes. “People are always looking for vegan options,” Nino Ortiz says. “We want to make good sushi that isn’t trying to be fish. We want to offer vegan options that’s not just lettuce and carrots in a roll.”
Initially, the chefs considered including salmon and albacore on menu, but ultimately went all-in on making the business strictly vegan and gluten-free. The stars of the menu are the three specialty rolls: the Meadow with cauliflower and artichoke hearts, the Oasis with spicy zucchini and charred shishito pepper, and the Mountain topped with black garlic, black truffle, and black bean sauce. Mitate will also serve its version of a California roll with cauliflower, and a spicy “tuna” roll with butternut squash and Yukon gold potatoes. Simple sides like avocado nigiri and sunomono salad are available to round out the meal.
Mitate will host its first weekly pop-up at Ruse Brewing on Saturday, November 7 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. As demand increases, the pop-up has plans to offer takeout from Portland Mercado. Down the road, in a year or two, the couple hopes that a food truck or restaurant will be in store for Mitate. For now, follow along on the pop-up’s Instagram.