We've all heard the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" but we also know we've gotten burned when we fell to the temptation of an awesome label/name only to find that the cover was far better than what was contained inside. So, too, are new food trends sometimes more hype than substance. Put all of those doubts aside as we take a look at Wasabi Sushi PDX's new brick and mortar location.
Three short years ago Alex and Phyu Naung met with Steven Shomler to discuss an interest in opening a food cart and in the fall of 2015 they did just that. The following year they opened a second cart and an indoor location at CARTLab PDX. This year they are opening their first brick and mortar location, complete with full catering capabilities, at 980 SE Madison. We had the pleasure of attending a preview of the new location yesterday, including a new addition to their menu - the Sushi Burger.
Steven, guru of all things food and beverage in Portland, has not only coached the Naungs but is also managing the bar at the SE Madison location meaning that the four taps are pouring an excellent selection of local, craft beer. Selected to compliment the food menu, the opening line up consists of Culmination Phaedrus IPA, Little Beast Bes, Ruse Translator IPA and The Commons Citrus Myrtle with Zoiglhaus and Sunriver kegs waiting in the wings. For non-beer or equal opportunity drinkers there are also two sake options from Sake One, a trio of Whoa Nelly! wines, a pair of Vin de Days wines and bottles of Reverend Nat's Revival and Deliverance Ginger Tonic.
While we were definitely impressed by the liquid offerings the food was most impressive as well. Sushi is possibly the most an eye-pleasing of all cuisines but here, especially in the case of the sushi donuts (above), that eye candy is taken to a whole 'nother level. Similar to a maki roll in composition, there are three flavor combinations, each competing to be the prettiest and served on a nori sheet to facilitate eating by hand just as one would a sweet, doughy creation.
One item, new and available only at the Madison location, is the Sushi Burger served with fries, that upon quick glance might be mistaken for something one is used to. But taking a second, more detailed look (and taste!) all four options are served on buns made from pressed Forbidden/black rice seared on the grill with a side of sweet potato fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning. We sampled the shrimp katsu version whose elements - avocado for creaminess, slaw for texture and a spicy sauce - combine with the fried shrimp to form a complete package. As with any delicious burger, this one will get messy by the end but the use of multiple napkins is well worth it. The sweet potato fries (a food we are admittedly not a fan of generally) are thinner than most, cooked to achieve actual crispness and find a perfect flavor partner in the Old Bay were so good that we ate them all.
In addition to the "donuts" and "burgers" there are Sushi B-Rittos (including one coated with hot Cheetos and containing wasabi sauce) that rival the bulk of many traditional burritos. Fans of more standard fare will find familiarity in the sushi roll and bowl offerings.
Tonight at 5pm is the friends and family, soft opening with the grand opening on Thursday. The full menu will be available tonight and as an added incentive, pints are specially priced at $4.