209 NE Lincoln St., Hillsboro, OR 97124
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m.;
Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.;
Saturday lunch: noon-3 p.m.;
Saturday & Sunday dinner: 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Owner: Susako Imai
Atmosphere: The sunken dining room is warm and inviting, festooned with red lanterns, oversized paintings of flowers, and an impressive collection of old sake bottles. Bamboo stalks — planted in a narrow bed of seashells — create a separation between the main dining area and a slightly elevated nook. Despite the overall tranquil mood, the music can be raucous: The day I visited, the Strokes’ Is This It album was playing at top volume.
Clientele: Rowdy groups of techies (Intel is a few miles away), Japanese-American families, lawyers from the Washington County Circuit Court across the street, single men glued to their iPhones or iPads.
Most popular: The tempura combo (sashimi, tempura and rice) and the sushi tempura combo are two of the most sought-after dishes on the menu (at $12.95, they’re also a great value). Traditional izakaya dishes, such as the miso-simmered mackerel (served with rice and a seasonal veggie) or the yakiniku beef, are also a hit. And then there are the inventive sushi rolls.
Best seat in the house: In nice weather, the outdoor patio — kitty-corner from a park — is a lovely place to sit. Otherwise, ask for a two-top (or four-top) at the back of the restaurant, a slightly more private area.
Inside dope: The restaurant is in the basement of the old Hillsboro Public Library, which accounts for its classic charm (old steam radiators, funky layout) and good bones.
Bragging rights: “We make everything from scratch,” says owner Susako Imai. When possible, ingredients are also organic.
Overheard: A German man and an Indian man hold a conversation about autonomous driving and, later, the E.U. The German man says: “So basically everyone pays a certain amount of money. Finland and Sweden also put money in. Everyone gets something out.” Indian man: “Where does the money go?” German: “The money is usually for infrastructure benefits to keep businesses there. The other thing is military — if something happens in Europe.”