Lunch: Miyake

There are some great lunch spots in Portland, but many of the city’s very best restaurants are only open for dinner.  Thus, if you want to “wow” an out-of-town visitor who is only available for lunch or just treat yourself to a fantastic lunch, you’ll find limited options.  Last year, if you wanted to dine at most of the city’s growing number of nationally-recognized restaurants, you had to wait for dinner.

This year, go to Miyake.

Since January, Miyake has been open from 11:45 a.m. until 1:45 p.m. for lunch.  You won’t find the three, five, or seven course omakase menus during lunch.  Rather, you’ll have a selection of some of the restaurants popular dishes, a la carte sushi, plus three and four course prix fixe lunches.  Recently, I enjoyed some of these lunches which, at $15 and $25 are a fantastic deal and a great opportunity to sample Miyake’s cuisine without investing too much money.

Each lunch begins with mushroom miso soup and a mixed green salad.  The soup features that indefinable umami flavor found in all great miso soups, with the mushrooms adding texture and more “meatiness” to this meat-free broth.  Up next is the lightly dressed salad, acting as a bit of a palate cleanser before the next course(s).  If you opt for the four-course meal, what follows is an appetizer which might include a few pieces of marinated salmon.

The day I dined, the three-course lunch came with two entree options, both accompanied by a small bowl of ma po tofu.  This is best described as a sort of stew incorporating ground pork and soft tofu.  It was flavored with soy, garlic, ginger, and other spices, imparting a teriyaki-like flavor.  A great, soul-warming dish, it would make a fantastic meal by itself on a cold winter day.

The first entree option was a maki roll: tuna and avocado inside, topped with chopped hamachi and scallions, and served atop a slightly spicy sauce.  This was a good, simple roll, without too many competing flavors.  Too often it is difficult to distinguish the varieties of fish inside “special” multi-fish maki rolls.  At Miyake, the pieces of tuna were in perfect harmony with and offered a nice contrast to the silky texture of the chopped hamachi.  This generous eight-piece roll was actually the first “traditional” maki I had tried at Miyake (i.e., more like something you’d order at the other Japanese restaurants in town) and it did not disappoint.

Although the maki roll was good, the other entree–swordfish toro–was the standout dish of the lunch.  I have enjoyed Miyake’s swordfish toro as part of a few omakase dinners and it is among the best dishes I have enjoyed in Portland (though it’s impossible for me to choose favorites at Miyake).  For lunch, three small pieces were served with fingerling potatoes, a sweet  potato dumpling/gnocchi, and vegetables.   The swordfish belly is fully cooked with a light teriyaki glaze and it–quite literally–melts in your mouth.  Whereas regular swordfish has a steak-like texture, the toro is something completely different.  It is light and delicate, yet rich.  This is not to be missed.

With the four-course option (which I’ll try next time), you also have a third entree choice of four different pieces of Miyake’s famous sushi and a small maki roll.  Much has been written about the creative sushi at Miyake, and lunch is another great opportunity to try out some recent creations.

Don’t overlook lunch at Miyake.  No longer must you wait until dinner for your Japanese food fix.  Get up from your desk and out of the office for some of the best food the city has to offer.

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