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#21 Twitch

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 11:03 AM

I don't want to reprise the how-to-pronounce-Fenouil argument, but after spending several months in Honshu and bringing my Japanese host to Murata this past Thanksgiving, I'm pretty convinced its more formal than its Japanese counterparts. Not every place has to be an Izakaya like Syun, but most sushi places I experienced were much more casual.

There is plenty of traditional Japanese food that is served formally (kaiseki, for example), but Murata is first and foremost a sushi restaurant, and sushi is fast food. It can be served in upscale Japanese restaurants, but with alot more hip and casual atmosphere than at a Murata.

I would say that if Murata resembles anything in Japan, it would be the equivalent of a Ringside here - a product of its time but not a good barometer of where people eat. Most Japanese do not consume sushi at a place like Murata. Most Portlandians do not prefer to eat at Ringside or McCormick and Schmicks vs. Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, etc.

#22 Laksa

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 12:22 PM

I don't want to reprise the how-to-pronounce-Fenouil argument, but after spending several months in Honshu and bringing my Japanese host to Murata this past Thanksgiving, I'm pretty convinced its more formal than its Japanese counterparts. Not every place has to be an Izakaya like Syun, but most sushi places I experienced were much more casual.

There is plenty of traditional Japanese food that is served formally (kaiseki, for example), but Murata is first and foremost a sushi restaurant, and sushi is fast food. It can be served in upscale Japanese restaurants, but with alot more hip and casual atmosphere than at a Murata.

I would say that if Murata resembles anything in Japan, it would be the equivalent of a Ringside here - a product of its time but not a good barometer of where people eat. Most Japanese do not consume sushi at a place like Murata. Most Portlandians do not prefer to eat at Ringside or McCormick and Schmicks vs. Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, etc.



If you visited Japan as part of an exchange or language program that's terrific. However it's possible that your hosts may have taken you to more informal places where you could enjoy yourself more easily.

Actually sushiya which far outstrip Murata or even Hiroshi in the formality department abound in Japan, as part of the vast business entertainent sector of the economy.

And I don't think it's quite fair to say that Murata is 'first and foremost' a sushi restaurant. For one thing, kaiseki ryori is quite labor-intensive. And think of the sushiya you visited in Japan. How many had a tatami room, let alone several?

#23 Joy

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 01:15 PM

I think it's the best sushi in Portland. And when I say it's fresh, it's fresh!
We sat at the sushi bar and the chef asked us if we wanted shrimp. I said no because I'm not a shrimp fan, but the chef was holding this guy in his hand and it was squirming like crazy. He shrugged and put the guy on ice where he laid for the rest of our dinner, wriggling and staring at us. This might turn most people off, but it is definitely the sign of fresh sushi.

#24 ExtraMSG

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 01:28 PM

Murata, aside from the tatami room experience, is less formal than some places I went to in malls.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#25 SauceSupreme

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 06:52 AM

Murata, aside from the tatami room experience, is less formal than some places I went to in malls.


It's probably safe to say, though, that an Asian shopping center is a whole different breed of the same animal.
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#26 lemonpie

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 12:18 PM

For me, Murata is the pinnacle of sushi in Portland. I'm still smiling from the bounty of sweet, glistening hamachi, toro and unagi we feasted upon on Friday. Although dimunitive, the matustake soup was outstanding!

#27 ExtraMSG

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 02:56 AM

Decided to hit Murata for dinner. Felt like something "light" and with all the talk of Kurata vs Murata vs Hiroshi lately, it was on my mind.

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Saw lots of great sounding items on the specials menu. But I also wanted sushi. Then I decided I'd just do omakase -- what the hell.

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After some quick bites, Murata-san gave me a selection of sashimi, including hirame, mackerel, smoked salmon, hamachi, and maguro. Everything was very nice. Man, their smoked salmon is fantastic. Still haven't had better. Cherry, apple, alder? Not sure of the wood, but just a wonderful sweet smoke that blends into the fatty salmon perfectly.

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Next came sable. Straight-forward, buttery, and lightly sweet, with a good amount of char. I actually only ate one piece to save room. Nice omelet on the side, too.

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Sushi began with a series of nigiri: shrimp, mackerel, salmon, and hamachi.

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It was quickly followed by more nigiri -- clam, hirame, and maguro -- and a tuna roll.

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Then a piece of unagi.

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I saw some toro go out and it looked good, so I requested some.

Fish quality was all very good. I do think the rice is inferior to Kurata's. It's clumpier, a little more bland, and the grains don't hold their shape and texture as well. But fish/cut choices are definitely better. And in some instances, they do have better fish, eg, their terrific salmon. I wouldn't mind doing a more head to head comparison on hamachi and maguro, too, which are clearly better than at places like Ichidai, Hakatamon, Mio, or Sinju. And their unagi is the only one in Portland I'd eat twice. One of the pieces of toro was a bit stringy, which can happen with toro, but well-marbled for chu-toro and two pieces was under $10 -- like 7 bucks. Rolls are superior at Kurata, I'd say, partially because the rice is better and partially because they're more balanced in flavor.

Finished the meal with some pineapple.

I don't know if I would recommend doing omakase at Murata. It's not like you get anything special that you couldn't just order. Probably better just to order off the menu exactly what you like.

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Not long ago when I dropped off food for the Oregon Ballet fundraiser at Carafe, I noticed Murata was really slow. Why doesn't Portland have a really good seafood restaurant? Probably the same reason Murata and Hiroshi are rarely busy. Good fish just isn't valued that highly in Portland. It's a small niche here.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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#28 loofahgirl

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 06:37 AM

Nick, how did you feel prices compared overall?

#29 ExtraMSG

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 12:42 PM

I took home a sushi menu, which I'd never done before. Here are some sample prices. Nigiri are for two pieces:

NIGIRI
maguro - $5.25
toro - $6.95
hamachi - $5.25
unagi - $5.95
hirame - $5.50
smoked salmon - $5.50
mackerel - $4.75

MAKI
california roll - $6.95
cucumber roll - $4.50
spicy tuna - $6.95
rainbow roll - $13.95

As a comparison, here are some prices from Sinju's website:

NIGIRI
hirame - $5.00
saba - $3.95
hamachi - $5.00
fresh salmon - $4.5
maguro - $4.5

MAKI
cucumber - $3.5
california roll - $4.95
rainbow roll - $10.95
spicy tuna - $6.95

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#30 polloelastico

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 03:26 PM

Not long ago when I dropped off food for the Oregon Ballet fundraiser at Carafe, I noticed Murata was really slow. Why doesn't Portland have a really good seafood restaurant? Probably the same reason Murata and Hiroshi are rarely busy.

When I went for lunch last, they were completely slammed, so at least on the average weekday they pull in business. The sashimi I had - looked exactly like your photo - was sublime.
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#31 ExtraMSG

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 04:07 PM

That's good to hear. I haven't been for lunch in a long time. Actually, my biggest fear about Murata is his age. He's getting up there. I know Japanese live to like 140 on average, but still. I don't know if he has an apprentice. Murata fills such a great niche of a standard sushi bar that does its thing well. It's like places like Ichidai or Tani's Kitchen or Hama, but truly good, not just good enough.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#32 Prone to Hyperbole

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 08:28 PM

Man, Nick. Those pics are pure tunagraphy! (not sure if that joke works or not) ;-)

But I wanted to say that while I have no confirmation of an apprentice, I have seen a young man (30 maybe?) working side by side with / and in place of Mr. Murata. This has been within the last 18 months maybe.

The food the young man turned out was totally up to par. Murata was there, or nearby, so maybe that's why. But it gave me hope.
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#33 chefken

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:27 AM

As I've said before, I think the sushi at Murata is terrific, and his fish beyond reproach.

But I think that what sets Murata apart are his non raw fish offerings, which are amazing. Order off the specials board for a real treat. His grilled mackeral, crab dishes, oysters, stews, etc. are wonderful. Try his kaiseki dinner sometime. It will blow you away.
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#34 tdub

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:19 PM

I agree, NO ONE has better smoked salmon in town than Murata.

#35 loofahgirl

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 10:28 AM

The grilled oysters at Murata right now are insanely amazing. And freaking huge--and hugely delicious. Go now!

#36 reduxredux

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 03:04 PM

Does anyone know the price of the kaiseki dinner? Do you have to order it ahead of time? My sister and I usually take each other out to dinner in lieu of Christmas presents and I think we're going to combine them into one high-end Japanese dinner. I haven't decided whether to go to Hiroshi or Murata yet. I want to make sure that it is the best possible dinner because I haven't had a satisfying sushi experience in years.

#37 Laksa

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 07:06 PM

Does anyone know the price of the kaiseki dinner? Do you have to order it ahead of time? My sister and I usually take each other out to dinner in lieu of Christmas presents and I think we're going to combine them into one high-end Japanese dinner. I haven't decided whether to go to Hiroshi or Murata yet. I want to make sure that it is the best possible dinner because I haven't had a satisfying sushi experience in years.


For whatever it's worth I'd recommend Murata above Hiroshi. I ate with four other people at Hiroshi over Thanksgiving and the fish was not consistently great by any means, in fact the ikura was just plain old. I didn't dare order uni to finish with because of it, and that's a good thing because even without the uni I felt burned by the bill. I've never had that experience at Murata.

To be fair I've got a friend who takes business associates to Hiroshi and who loves the place. When I was there with him it was very, very good.

#38 ExtraMSG

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 11:36 PM

I'm not sure about consistency at Hiroshi because I usually focus on the best of the best or the chef's recs. But I think the highs are clearly higher at Hiroshi than at Murata, though I still really like Murata and they do some things extremely well. Still, no one in town in bringing in fish like most big cities. Portlanders are still sushi-go-rounders first and foremost. They want cheap or big rolls with lots of mayo and fried stuff. Fish quality is not at the top of the list. Hiroshi should be 10 or 12 seats and cost min $75/head so he can focus on just bringing in the best. I think Murata more or less is doing what he should be doing, especially with the tatami rooms. Though still it'd be nice to see some more interesting specials for sushi and sashimi.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#39 reduxredux

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 08:14 PM

This is driving me crazy. Maybe I should just go to Fin? I think my sister would complain if I tried to make her go to Tanuki again (not that she doesn't like it, I just always want to go there for special occasions). I do love their uni and hamachi...

#40 HappyHourHero

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 08:43 PM

Of the few experiences I've had at Murata, they have all been solid and consistent. Hiroshi can be hit or miss. Whenever I go in for a lunchtime omakase it hits the mark, as its pretty slow. If your doing Hiroshi on a busy night, it may be slow. Onetime I went on a sunday or monday and he was running out of several types of fish and it took forever. As Zukin said, the highs of Hiroshi are generally higher, but there are certainly consistency issues you won't find at Murata.