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Sake and Sushi at Bamboo Sushi
Pechluck Laskey

Portland’s Must-Try Sake Lists for Pairing and Sipping

The essential spots for sake dinners, with tips on what to order

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Sake and Sushi at Bamboo Sushi
| Pechluck Laskey

Portland loves its booze, but the city’s relationship with sake is unparalleled. Thanks to its sake brewery and its status as a sister city with Sapporo, the Rose City is believed to consume more sake per capita than any other city in the United States. For those unfamiliar or hesitant to order a full bottle, Japanese restaurants and sake bars offer lots of affordable by-the-glass and sampler flights, beautifully paired with sushi, American Kobe Beef, or even a pho-spiced bone marrow luge.

This map is your guide to the places with the most noteworthy sake lists in PDX. Note that the listings are not ranked, but organized geographically.

-Pechluck Laskey and “Namazake Paul” Willenberg

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Syun Izakaya

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Syun brings the feel of a Japanese izakaya to the far west side of Hillsboro with an extensive menu of sushi and snacks, including sake-pairing favorites like steamed clams in sake or saikyo yaki, a grilled cod in a Kyoto-style sweet white miso. If you can’t finish your bottle from the selection of more than 40 sake options, Syun Izakaya will keep the bottle with your name on it for 100 days to return and enjoy on your subsequent visits, a common practice in Japan.

Volcano Roll
PK/Yelp

This hole-in-the-wall in Beaverton is hard to spot, but despite its humble interior it offers almost 20 sakes priced by size (small, large) or by the bottle. Pair your choice with a massive menu of izakaya favorites like tender buta no kakuni, a “cube” Carlton pork belly slow-stewed in sake and sweet soy sauce, or menchi katsu, deep-fried-and-breaded American Kobe beef and Carlton pork patty.

SHO Japanese Restaurant

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If you are looking to tuck into some Japanese curry or hot pot to nosh on along with your sake, look no further than Sho Japanese Restaurant, a polished sushi-counter-style spot between Portland and Tigard. Choose from a selection of five sake flights, a sake cocktail, or one of the restaurant’s 20 options. Pair with creative takes on traditional dishes like spicy teriyaki edamame, or a Kobe beef loco moco.

Grilled Chicken Curry
Katsumichi S/Yelp

Bamboo Sushi NW

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This chic, sustainable sushi chain with locations across Portland is an institution, but its sake menu is seriously under-appreciated. Bamboo offers 30 sake options, almost all by the glass or bottle, with half-priced bottles on Wednesdays. The sake are grouped in broad categories of flavors similar to wine (fruity, earthy), with the Japanese name and percent of rice polish — lower numbers mean more impurities have been polished away. Don’t miss the Bamboo Junmai Ginjo Namazake, an unpasteurized sake brewed by Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan brewery specifically for the restaurant.

Masu Sushi

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This upscale, second-floor spot (only accessible via stairs) has a simple, open atmosphere and offers some of the highest quality sushi downtown. The fish is accompanied by a strong 40+ sake list, including a selection available by the 180 ml masu, wooden or lacquer boxes often served with a cup. Order by the bottle for more bang for your buck.

Yama Sushi & Sake Bar

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Beyond the excellent fresh fish and creative rolls, hip sushi counter Yama hawks more than 50 sakes, all available by the glass or bottle. The menu is well organized, including a Oregon-brewed section and a variety of unusual sakes, from the coconut-infused to the spicy plum. The indecisive can choose from among eight sake flights.

The four sake flights and 35 sakes by the glass and bottle at Afuri Ramen and Izakaya are categorized by flavor expression, from the “nuanced, delicate, elegant” to the “robust, rustic, richer.” The sakes, listed with the poetic translation of the name (“Tears of Dawn” or “Cabin in the Snow”), pair well with the Japanese transplant’s famous ramen, chirashi bowl, and skewers from the rare irori charcoal grill in the open kitchen. Sip a flight in the well-lit, industrial space or at the bar.

Chandelier

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This dozen-seat, cozy sake bar serves 30 options by the glass or in build-your-own flights, with the list divided into broad flavor categories with little description. The owner is the magic here, and he has curated a list with unique sakes in mind; feel free to get chatty with him about his choices and each glass’s characteristics. The daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. discounts the four-pour sake flight to $14 — the bar only offers a couple snacks, so make plans to eat well before and after your visit.

Zilla Sake

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With more than 80 sakes available by bottle, flight, or glass, Zilla Sake has the biggest selection in Portland. The dark, wood-accented bar gets its hands on special, hard-to-find seasonal sakes, as well as almost 20 hot sakes alone. The list is generally terse with no descriptions other than rice-polish-percentage; thankfully the staff is well versed in guiding diners through the menu — that includes the austere, sashimi-focused sushi.

Ichidai Japanese Restaurant

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No-frills Japanese izakaya Ichidai crafted its menu of broiled fish, sukiyaki, and tempura to keep things traditional — that happens to go beautifully with its sake list, which is organized by the small or large carafe or bottle. Don’t miss the Oregon-brewed sake section, available by the 12-ounce tokkuri or in a flight.

Tanuki isn’t your family-friendly sushi counter; this no-kids-allowed, dark, and devil-may-care spot sticks to unapologetic drinking food, leaning on the richer or saltier side to go toe-to-toe with its beverages. A little more than 20 sakes from small craft breweries come by flask (8-10 ounces) or bottle, but guests really go for the fun and unconventional pairings: Try your sake with a pho-spiced bone marrow luge, for instance.

A post shared by @future_references on

Syun Izakaya

Volcano Roll
PK/Yelp

Syun brings the feel of a Japanese izakaya to the far west side of Hillsboro with an extensive menu of sushi and snacks, including sake-pairing favorites like steamed clams in sake or saikyo yaki, a grilled cod in a Kyoto-style sweet white miso. If you can’t finish your bottle from the selection of more than 40 sake options, Syun Izakaya will keep the bottle with your name on it for 100 days to return and enjoy on your subsequent visits, a common practice in Japan.

Volcano Roll
PK/Yelp

Yuzu

This hole-in-the-wall in Beaverton is hard to spot, but despite its humble interior it offers almost 20 sakes priced by size (small, large) or by the bottle. Pair your choice with a massive menu of izakaya favorites like tender buta no kakuni, a “cube” Carlton pork belly slow-stewed in sake and sweet soy sauce, or menchi katsu, deep-fried-and-breaded American Kobe beef and Carlton pork patty.

SHO Japanese Restaurant

Grilled Chicken Curry
Katsumichi S/Yelp

If you are looking to tuck into some Japanese curry or hot pot to nosh on along with your sake, look no further than Sho Japanese Restaurant, a polished sushi-counter-style spot between Portland and Tigard. Choose from a selection of five sake flights, a sake cocktail, or one of the restaurant’s 20 options. Pair with creative takes on traditional dishes like spicy teriyaki edamame, or a Kobe beef loco moco.

Grilled Chicken Curry
Katsumichi S/Yelp

Bamboo Sushi NW

This chic, sustainable sushi chain with locations across Portland is an institution, but its sake menu is seriously under-appreciated. Bamboo offers 30 sake options, almost all by the glass or bottle, with half-priced bottles on Wednesdays. The sake are grouped in broad categories of flavors similar to wine (fruity, earthy), with the Japanese name and percent of rice polish — lower numbers mean more impurities have been polished away. Don’t miss the Bamboo Junmai Ginjo Namazake, an unpasteurized sake brewed by Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan brewery specifically for the restaurant.

Masu Sushi

This upscale, second-floor spot (only accessible via stairs) has a simple, open atmosphere and offers some of the highest quality sushi downtown. The fish is accompanied by a strong 40+ sake list, including a selection available by the 180 ml masu, wooden or lacquer boxes often served with a cup. Order by the bottle for more bang for your buck.

Yama Sushi & Sake Bar

Beyond the excellent fresh fish and creative rolls, hip sushi counter Yama hawks more than 50 sakes, all available by the glass or bottle. The menu is well organized, including a Oregon-brewed section and a variety of unusual sakes, from the coconut-infused to the spicy plum. The indecisive can choose from among eight sake flights.

Afuri

The four sake flights and 35 sakes by the glass and bottle at Afuri Ramen and Izakaya are categorized by flavor expression, from the “nuanced, delicate, elegant” to the “robust, rustic, richer.” The sakes, listed with the poetic translation of the name (“Tears of Dawn” or “Cabin in the Snow”), pair well with the Japanese transplant’s famous ramen, chirashi bowl, and skewers from the rare irori charcoal grill in the open kitchen. Sip a flight in the well-lit, industrial space or at the bar.

Chandelier

This dozen-seat, cozy sake bar serves 30 options by the glass or in build-your-own flights, with the list divided into broad flavor categories with little description. The owner is the magic here, and he has curated a list with unique sakes in mind; feel free to get chatty with him about his choices and each glass’s characteristics. The daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. discounts the four-pour sake flight to $14 — the bar only offers a couple snacks, so make plans to eat well before and after your visit.

Zilla Sake

With more than 80 sakes available by bottle, flight, or glass, Zilla Sake has the biggest selection in Portland. The dark, wood-accented bar gets its hands on special, hard-to-find seasonal sakes, as well as almost 20 hot sakes alone. The list is generally terse with no descriptions other than rice-polish-percentage; thankfully the staff is well versed in guiding diners through the menu — that includes the austere, sashimi-focused sushi.

Ichidai Japanese Restaurant

No-frills Japanese izakaya Ichidai crafted its menu of broiled fish, sukiyaki, and tempura to keep things traditional — that happens to go beautifully with its sake list, which is organized by the small or large carafe or bottle. Don’t miss the Oregon-brewed sake section, available by the 12-ounce tokkuri or in a flight.

Tanuki

Tanuki isn’t your family-friendly sushi counter; this no-kids-allowed, dark, and devil-may-care spot sticks to unapologetic drinking food, leaning on the richer or saltier side to go toe-to-toe with its beverages. A little more than 20 sakes from small craft breweries come by flask (8-10 ounces) or bottle, but guests really go for the fun and unconventional pairings: Try your sake with a pho-spiced bone marrow luge, for instance.

A post shared by @future_references on

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