Far East on the West Side
209 NE Lincoln St, Hillsboro, 503-640-3131
Forget what you think you might like about a sushi place. Throw out sustainability, a hip soundtrack, a dark room, saketinis, and gigantic ice buddhas. Instead, think about fish—what kind you want and how perfectly prepared you want it to be. Don’t be shy about leaving Portland and braving a 55-minute MAX ride (or, if you must, a 20-minute drive) to downtown Hillsboro. Steps from the train’s last stop, in, of all places, the basement of the old Hillsboro Public Library, is the 11-year-old Syun Izakaya. It’s bright; it’s weird; it has a plastic clock shaped like a piece of sushi. And it serves the best Japanese food we’ve tasted.
Close contenders: Bamboo Sushi, Biwa, Yuzu
Chiba native Kunihiko Imai, a former All Nippon Airways employee armed with a Japanese chef’s license, and his wife, Susako, started Syun as an experiment. They wanted to create a local version of the popular Japanese-style pub called izakaya, featuring a short menu of cooked dishes augmented with raw fish. It was an instant hit, packed first with the Silicon Forest’s Japanese techies and then more Americans as companies like Toshiba left. The couple returns home twice a year to stay current and push the menu in experimental directions—for instance, deep-fried tofu or green-tea pudding.
Don’t shy away from the stranger dishes. The octopus and cucumber in vinegar is a study in texture and tone, the chewy darkness of the animal punched up by the crisp almost-pickles. Yellowtail cheek, splayed open and grilled, offers up the flakiest, fattiest part of the fish. (The few bones will remind you of how recently your food was swimming.) Less adventurous eaters might opt for the cold soba—delicate and delicious (and a bit slippery when dunked in the soy dipping broth). But everyone should order the toro, the most perfect bite of the ocean you can experience without growing a set of gills. —EH