Nodoguro - Conceptual Japanese Dining
We visited Nodoguro this past Saturday to honor our 5th wedding anniversary. I've been hearing a lot about this restaurant - how it's a "pop-up" - which is really all the rage in Portland these days. A pop-up is a restaurant without permanent roots in a location, opening and closing upon the whims of the chefs and space-owners who can facilitate these kinds of events. Nodoguro began life as a pop-up but now enjoys permanent residence on Southeast Hawthorne street right next to Pastaworks.
The business model of Nodoguro is to sell you a ticket several months in advance. There's one seating a night and only 12 guests at a time, so it's a very intimate affair. To drink, you can either do the wine and sake pairing or you can order the offered pairings by the glass. We got there ready to drink so the chef was willing to accommodate us with a bottle of sake to get us started properly before moving on to the pairing menu.
The food was universally exceptional. Each dish is meticulously crafted and presented with an artistry that values the beauty in simplicity. The one large tabled shared by the entire restaurant was decorated with little zen sand gardens and sumi easels to underscore that Japanese zen mentality of finding a perfect moment and then washing it away with a sip of sake.
The whole experience felt like an event rather than just dinner. The chef, Ryan Roadhouse, is there to tell you everything you want to know about the dishes he has created for you. His assistants are proud and knowledgeable as they present the food and make sure your needs are met.
The only downside to this place is that the tickets are $85 per head and do not include your drinks. I was happy to pay the price of admission here because it's such a unique and wonderful experience, but it's obviously not a price-point that's going to have us coming back on a casual basis. That said, the next time I feel like justifying an incredible meal, we'll definitely be back to try out the omakase format, which Chef Ryan runs on Sunday evenings.