Hokusei: Nine Courses of Sea Creatures & Sake

I have been spoiled on the culinary front this week.

On Monday I scarfed a cheeseburger at Clyde Common for lunch followed by a fantastic spread of salads, pastas, and wine at Ava Genes; then last night I spent four and a half hours at Hokusei indulging in a nine course supper facilitated by Portland Food Adventures.

I arrived to Hokusei, a small-ish sushi and omakase eatery on 44th and Belmont at around 6:15 PM to be greeted by the lovely Chris Angelus of PFA who assured me that he had seated me for the night at ‘The Fun Table.’ Like the PFA event at Grassa last week, I showed up not having known anyone but in anticipation of an evening of banter, beverage, and delightful cuisine.

I was seated besides Alyssa, Lauren, Kyle, Adrienne, and Andrew- a group of friends who regularly frequent Portland Food Adventures and had even formed some of their friendships with one another at  prior event. They were all very friendly, full of hilarious anecdotes and stories, and just as into sampling unique culinary delights as myself.

Mozuku Sunamono: Seaweed, Cucumber, Tako, & Vinegar paired with Shooting Stars Champagne Cocktail

The Starter Course- Mozuku Sunamono: Seaweed, Cucumber, Tako, & Vinegar paired with Shooting Stars Champagne Cocktail

Artwork against the back wall

Artwork against the back wall

Ankimo: Monkfish liver, sumiso, ginger, and caviar and a touch of truffle oil (paired with Schichihon Yari-Shgia)

Ankimo: Monkfish liver, sumiso, ginger, and caviar and a touch of truffle oil (paired with Schichihon Yari-Shgia)

This course was delightful! I’ve never tried Monkfish liver and admittedly it’s only in the past year or so that I have developed such a liking for various pates and livers; however this was paired deliciously with a truffled miso sauce and tinge of ginger, chive, and caviar.

Chris introducing us to the Chef, Kaoru Ishii

Chris introducing us to the Chef, Kaoru Ishii

Hiyashi Chawanmushi: Cold egg and dashi custard, crab, scallop, uni, and gingko nut paired with Yuri Masumune-Akita

Hiyashi Chawanmushi: Cold egg and dashi custard, crab, scallop, uni, and gingko nut paired with Yuri Masumune-Akita

As a “food blogger” I sometimes perceive that the stereotype dictates that I should be absolutely adoring and raving about the dishes which would appeal to the most limited selection of palates. However, I will be fully honest about this custard: It was not up my alley. It was certainly unique and visually appealing, but I’m not incredibly crazy about ultra fishy aromas and flavours. The orange organism atop the custard is the uni (my table mate Kyle described it to me as being the gonads of a sea urchin) and underneath the uni hidden in the custard are mysterious chunks of scallop, crab, and gingko nut. Definitely an interesting dish.

Saba Misoni: 10 hour braised saba in hacho miso paired with Eiko Fuji Honkara

Saba Misoni: 10 hour braised saba in hacho miso paired with Eiko Fuji Honkara

Saba, a sort of mackerel is another fish I’ve seen constantly on Japanese restaurant menus but have never taken the initiative to try. This course was not slimy or fishy in the least, in fact the braising of the fish fully absorbed the sweet flavour of the hacho miso and was an enjoyable contrast to the fresh herbs atop.

Beef Carpaccio: Painted Hills New York strip, ginger, garlic, chives, yuzu, olive oil, soy, sesame oil paired with Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu-Yamagata

Beef Carpaccio: Painted Hills New York strip, ginger, garlic, chives, yuzu, olive oil, soy, sesame oil paired with Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu-Yamagata

At the risk of sounding super vanilla, the carpaccio may have been my favourite dish. The seasoning was so delicate and multifaceted encompassing most of my favourite seasonings (namely garlic and giner with a little citrus accent). I would probably come back to Hokusei to get five of these (and that’s not an exaggeration by any means).

Chilean Sea Bass Yuan Yaki: Soy, mirin, garlic, ginger and yuzu zest paired with Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo

Chilean Sea Bass Yuan Yaki: Soy, mirin, garlic, ginger and yuzu zest paired with Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo

This was another splendid course; the stalk on top is ginger pickled at the end to cleanse your palate prior to and after consuming the little filet of fish. I loved the charred and perfectly flaky texture of the sea bass and once again the delightful garlic/ginger/yuzu marinade. Splendid.

Ebi Shinjo Age: Shrimp dumpling, myoga, and osuimono

Ebi Shinjo Age: Shrimp dumpling, myoga, and osuimono

To translate (or what I believe would be a translation), the accompaniments to the itty shrimp dumpling were peas, a shiitake mushroom and ginger blossom strands. This dish was a refreshing contrast to the otherwise meat heavy prior courses. Plus the ultra umami broth was superb for post-accompaniment-consumption slurping (or drinking gracefully rather).

Bara Zushi: Assorted fish, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, gourd, tamago over sushi rice. Paired with Morimoto Imperial Pilsner

Bara Zushi: Assorted fish, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, gourd, tamago over sushi rice. Paired with Morimoto Imperial Pilsner

As you can see, the farther in the courses we go, the worse the quality of the photos get. I would tell you it’s because of all the sake in the prior courses but in reality it’s just that the sun was almost completely set at this point and my ipad camera is not exactly of DSLR calibre.

Anyhow, this dish was a lovely ending to the savoury courses of the night; it was entree-sized and by the time it came I was most certainly ready for a carbohydrate appearance.

Chocolate Pot de Creme: Chocolate mousse, creme anglaise, and fresh berries paired with a Strawberry Rye Manhattan

Chocolate Pot de Creme: Chocolate mousse, creme anglaise, and fresh berries paired with a Strawberry Rye Manhattan

And…dessert! While not the most Japanese of sweets, this was such a delectable little pot that it even reinstated my recently M.I.A. sweet tooth. And don’t be fooled by the berry-esque hue of that Rye Manhattan, one sip was all I needed to realise that the strawberry:whiskey ratio was somewhere in the vicinity of 1:10

All my 25% consumed sake and cocktail pairings

All my 25% consumed sake and cocktail pairings

As you can see, eight beverage pairings was all too much for me; next time I attend a PFA I may need to bring a friend as my designated cocktail-consumer since I only consumed around 22% of all the libations provided to me. I also would like to thank the fantastic staff at Hokusei for allowing me to accumulate all my cups throughout the night so that I can Instagram this lovely image.

Gift certificates to Levant, Sok Sab Bai, and Chiang Mai

Gift certificates to Levant, Sok Sab Bai, and Chiang Mai

And the fourth coolest part of the night (meaning besides the food, beverage, and company) is that each of the guests were provided with gift certificates to three restaurants of the Chef’s choice. While I’ve been to Levant and Chiang Mai and adore them both, I have not yet had the opportunity to try Sok Sab Bai, a new Cambodian restaurant which recently converted from having been a food cart.

I have to say that I had an incredible time at Hokusei last night and truly enjoyed spending my Tuesday evening at another Portland Food Adventure. I also would like to sincerely thank the mysterious gentleman who invited me to partake in this lovely “foodie” experience and thus provided me with the chance to try the unique specialties of another fantastic Portland restaurant.

While the $125 ticket price for this event (and most other PFA events) may seem like a splurge; you do get around $50 worth of gift certificates along with an extremely immaculate and high quality menu of courses and way more beverages than you would dare ask for.

For more information on upcoming/past Portland Food Adventures, check out their site here!

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2 thoughts on “Hokusei: Nine Courses of Sea Creatures & Sake

  1. I’m new to the Portland Food Blog Scene (*is* there a scene?!), but Portland Food Adventures sounds awesome! Thanks for the heads up!

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