The other day, Dan and I ventured over to one of my favorite parts of town in Portland, which is the Southeast. Wanting to catch an early movie, we planned for happy hour in advance and decided on Yama Sushi & Izakaya on charming Clinton Street.
It's interesting to note that our visit to Yama was the first Japanese-style restaurant we've visited in Portland. Knowing that it's an Izakaya as well, I knew there'd be other options besides sushi. Loving their extensive happy hour menu, which goes til 6:30 p.m., it gave us plenty of time before the movie and because it was still early, the restaurant wasn't crowded and instead perfectly comfortable.
In terms of the vibe here, it's relaxed, open and sleek. The sake barrels, which serve as a primary decor element very much reminded me of the ones we saw in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. There's an open air feel to the whole place, and you get to observe the sushi chefs do their magic if you wish. I love that there's plenty of light in the restaurant that comes in through the large floor to ceiling windows, creating that natural, zen atmosphere often associated with a Japanese aesthetic.
Taking advantage of their fruitful happy hour menu, there was lots to choose from and we went with everything from traditional sushi hand rolls to tempura rolls, fried seafood and more. Here are my specific food highlights:
Shishito Bacon Skewers - Mmmm...everything about this dish spoke to us. I love me some shishito peppers, and mixing those together with the smoky bacon just added more greatness. The bacon was was nicely cooked, being crispy and chewy too, while the shishitos added a little spicy punch.
Popcorn Scallops - Consisting of poppable little bay scallop bites, I was impressed with the happy hour portion. The dish made for a great appetizer and its flavors came alive even more when spritzed with a little bit of lemon. Overall, it was a solid dish and I'm happy to report that the scallops tasted fresh and sumptuous.
Baby Octopus Kara-age - Not familiar with the terms "kara-age," we asked our knowledgeable waitress to explain what we could expect from this dish. She basically described it as another tasty deep fried concoction, which was A-OK with us and upon seeing it, we knew we were in for a treat. Fried to perfection, the octopus exemplified a nice balance of crunchy texture and once again fresh flavor. Dipping it into a bit of soy sauce amped up its level of savoriness.
Tempura Salmon Roll - Opting for a cooked sushi roll, this one didn't disappoint, especially in terms of portion size. I loved the big chunks of salmon that were placed on top of the rice and seaweed bundle and you hardly needed any other fixins to enjoy it. The spicy mayo and a sweet soy glaze on top went a long way, too.
Service and Cost:
Yama's staff are knowledgeable and friendly and some proved to be Japanese natives. Impressed by their level of expertise, I had no doubt about the restaurant's authenticity and would happily return here in the future.
Costs are wallet friendly, especially for happy hour, setting us back just $36 for 6 small plates and a drink (tip included).
Yama Sushi & Izakaya - 2038 SE Clinton Street, Portland OR 97202
4 Bus to 20th and Division