Before he began consulting on the raw fish program at Takibi, chef Cody Auger — known for his nationally praised sushi restaurant, Nimblefish — sat down for a meal at the newly opened Japanese restaurant, tucked behind the Snow Peak outdoor goods store in Northwest Portland. “I had a really amazing meal,” he says. “There were fun plays on traditional ideas, but nothing that strayed too far from it, and it felt true to the Pacific Northwest.”
For those familiar with Auger’s cooking, that same ethos isn’t far off from what he’s done in Portland. At Nimblefish, Auger has taken Japanese dishes and techniques and incorporated Pacific Northwestern ingredients, curing his own salmon roe and cracking Dungeness for omakase service. In the summer, just after the restaurant’s opening, Auger began helping Takibi with its raw program, tackling classically Auger-ian dishes like salted-and-cured mackerel. When Submarine Hospitality left the restaurant after the launch, the team at Snow Peak – which owns Takibi — decided to hire Auger to take over, running the restaurant.
“My focus is to get it back to the original foundation of what that menu was,” Auger says. “Continue some very traditional ideas, invite some fun to the menu, and definitely put a little more seafood into the mix and accentuate that grill.”
At Takibi, many of the dishes use a blend of Oregon ingredients in Japanese preparations; for Auger, one of the recent additions to the menu is a great exemplification of that idea. Auger has been experimenting with warayaki, a straw-grilling technique that sears and gently smokes the outside of the fish but keeps the interior tender and rare, if not raw. To start, he’s using Oregon albacore, straw-smoked-and-seared, in the style of tataki. “It uses the wood-fired hearth we’ve been working with and the raw program,” he says. A similar seafood-hearth crossover is the restaurant’s miso-marinated black cod, a holdout from previous menus, which uses both Pacific Northwestern black cod and a Portland-made chickpea miso. “It’s a no-brainer to keep that one on,” he says. “It exemplifies a lot of Pacific Northwest character, and local ingredients, as well.”
Similarly, Auger is focusing on local game to accompany the restaurant’s seafood. Another miso-marinated dish is the restaurant’s Oregon-raised lamb chop, which spends 24 hours in barley miso before landing on the grill’s open flame. The restaurant is sourcing rabbit from Nicky Farms, raised in Aurora, braised with dashi, root vegetables, and chrysanthemum greens; the restaurant’s dorayaki, a Japanese honey pancake, also uses Nicky rabbit in a liver mousse, with house-cured ikura and chives.
Bar director Jim Meehan and bar manager Lydia McLuen will stay on at Takibi, as will the vast majority of the employees. Auger will make Takibi his primary home base, allowing his longtime sushi chef Yasu Tabita run the show at Nimblefish. “Always the plan for for Nimblefish was to... create this business that we could to step back from,” Auger says. “The pandemic was one of the things that helped us with that: We transitioned to a takeaway program, we promoted some folks to manage that situation... Tabita, he’s been handling that role for, I’d say, almost a year plus now.”
Those who want to eat food prepared by Auger can visit Takibi for service indoors and outdoors, with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within 48 hours of arrival.
• Takibi [Official]
• Chef Cody Auger Is One of the Sushi World’s Rising Stars [Eater]
• Previous Nimblefish coverage [EPDX]