With an increasing love for Japanese food all over the country, Portland saw several new additions to its restaurant scene in the last several years. There's a great selection of sushi restaurants (Yosaku and Benkay being two of our faves), but recent years have seen the addition of Japanese restaurants that focus on ramen and the casual pub fare served in izakayas. Here are three of our favorite Japanese restaurants in Portland to give your fix of noodles, fried chicken, and gyoza.
What began as a popular food truck quickly morphed into a brick-and-mortar location on Fore Street. Mami is run by Austin Miller and Hana Tamaki, a chef couple. The restaurant is casual with counter service, and serves lunch and dinner. True to its food truck roots, the menu has several small dishes that are perfect for sharing. Popular dishes include the okonomiyaki, a cabbage and bacon pancake; karaage, or Japanese fried chicken; and nikuman, steamed buns filled with delicious barbecued lamb.
Part of Portland's Washington Ave. renewal, this Japanese izakaya with a Maine-spin is helmed by Thomas Cooke and his wife Elaine Alden. With only 37 seats, the izakaya is cozy and fills up fast. Heavy on the seafood, the menu embraces Portland's maritime traditions with Japanese preparations. Go all in for the chef's omakase, a selection of 4 or 5 courses of perfectly prepared sashimi.
Ramen is the star at Pai Men Miyake, sister restaurant to the famed sushi bar Miyake. Chef Masa Miyake is from Japan, working in NYC restaurants before moving to Maine to pursue small-time farming. His restaurants use the heritage-breed pigs raised at his nearby farm and vegetables from local farms. In addition to those comforting bowls of rich ramen, this hip noodle bar serves sushi rolls, gyoza, and some of the Brussels sprouts in the city.