A thin little storefront at 3731 SE Hawthorne has housed some of Portland’s great food gems: the original Pastaworks grocer (now next door); Bar Pastiche, an ahead-of-its-time tapas bar; and Evoe, where accomplished chef Kevin Gibson made magic with a knife, seasonal finds, and a stove top, before bolting for Davenport on East Burnside last fall.

Image: Karen Brooks
Nodoguro's Oregon tuna sashimi in a tin

Now, as Evoe readies to close, another rising force, Nodoguro, is taking up residence in a space that always manages to wring surprise and possibility out of a counter, stools, and a few tables.

You may not have heard of Nodoguro. Quietly, while we were all hunting for our next ramen fix, Ryan Roadhouse perfected Portland’s best Japanese food secret, his weekly pop up-meets-fine dining dinner experience at Evoe, where he squatted while pondering the future. You can find him on my list of “UnRestaurants,” the experimental dining revolution changing how we eat and think about food in Portland. Pastaworks honchos Kevin de Garmo and Kaie Wellman were among the guests at one of Roadhouse’s nine-course explorations of Japanese food tradition and fun feasting, with thematic menus and table décor. His dishes move easily from Oregon tuna sashimi inside a chic pull-top can to air-dried mackerel crackling under crushed turnips and white onions. The food and moment clarified everything for them: Nodoguro needed a home, and this was it.

Image: Karen Brooks
Nodoguro table setting, complete with DIY card and pencil for a Japanese festival "wishing tree"

The post-Gibson Evoe will close Aug. 31. Then, Nodoguro will lease the space Wednesday-Sundays. For the next three or four weeks, Roadhouse will stick to twice-weekly, multi-course dinners, with one seating per night at 6:30. “I’ll let it grow organically, based on demand,” says Roadhouse. He’s pondering a wide variety of options that could be added: more dinners, lunch, maybe a mini-izakaya program with snacks on off-dinner night. Meanwhile, talent-scouting Pastaworks plans to hold classes or events – or maybe other pop-ups -- on Monday and Tuesday night.

Sign up for dinners: nodoguropdx.com. Seats are available for Aug. 18-19, Sept. 2-3, Sept 9-10.

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