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PDX: Kigaru Sushi

I never look for udon. As much as I like this simple little noodle dish, udon has not been respected outside of Japan. The ramen revolution inspired countless cooks to perfect the art of the yellow wavy noodle, which in turn amplifies the lack of udon. It is actually easy to find udon (or soba) these days because many ramen shops offer them as an option to ramen. (Which is blasphemous – think of eating burgers at a pizza joint) However, these dishes are thrown onto the menu as an afterthought to the “delicious” ramen, thus are almost always worse than any udon bought from grocery shops. As such, I have resigned myself to a fate of sticking to ramen, rather than searching for my beloved udon. Well, Megan is a sweetheart and found a restaurant that seems promising. The first image on Yelp shows a bowl of udon, so there is where we headed – Kigaru Sushi.

Front counter.
Sushi chef hard at work.

The first sign of luck greeted us as we step into the tungsten and neon-lit waterhole. The special of the day is a udon and omakase sushi combination for $15. The sushi chef is hard at work at the front, showing off the fresh ingredients he is using. Dinner time on Sunday doesn’t seem to be too crowded, and we are seated immediately. I overheard many conversations, including ones with the waitress, in Japanese – all of these boosted my confidence. The lack of over the top decoration, and the atmosphere of the restaurant, both reminded me of the small intimate bars in Shinjuku. (Even though they are not at all similar.) There are four udon options (FOUR!) and a good selection of sushi. I ordered the beef udon and a piece of the blue fin tuna nigiri, while Megan got the traditional tempura udon.

Blue Fin Tuna

The sushi comes prepared almost immediately, but I am not impressed. The meat to rice ratio skewed too heavily towards the meat while the rice isn’t very good. My biggest complaint is that the tuna is cold, probably because it isn’t in high demand, and thus, not fresh. I should have hesitated from ordering it based on the price alone, which is an amazing steal. In strict blue fin tuna nigiri world, it has much more to be desired; but for only $3, it is amazing. Had I been hungrier, I would have gotten more rolls and nigiri, even an omakase. Plates of sushi kept flying pass us to other table, and I am envious of the sight of them. Just don’t get blue fin and expect a world.

Beef Udon – Bonito broth with beef, onions, seaweed, and green onino. $9.75

Our bowls of udon come soon after, and they are substantial bowls of udon. The beef used is the same as the ones in beef-don, which made the soup extra sweet, on top of the green and caramelized onions. The thick udon noodle pairs amazing with the beef and the soup base. I keep slurping, hoping to find more noodles. If anything, they skim on the amount of meat, which does not bother me because all the beef does is to add more flavor to the soup. The shrimp tempura and vegetables are left separately on a different plate, to be dipped into the soup; they did not offer any dipping soup for that. Overall, I really like the udon, and it is much better than what I could have made myself.

Udon, the simple and less attractive cousin of ramen. That itself is ironic, as udon has a longer history in Japan, whereas ramen was imported from China only a few centuries ago into Japan. I think both the lack of spice and the thick noodles turn most people away. There is no harm in liking a dish that isn’t popular, and I’m glad I found a good restaurant nearby that serves them. Here is the silver lining – there would probably never be a huge crowd lining up eating udon!

Another neighborhood Japanese restaurant.

Visited: January 5, 2020 at 6pm for dinner.
Website: https://kigaru-sushi.com/
Address: 3486 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton

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