Like the old joke about a new Starbucks opening inside another Starbucks, chef and seafood savant Trent Pierce will open a modern seafood restaurant called Roe in the back room of his popular ramen spot Wafu (3113 SE Division St). The game plan will include a chef’s counter, tasting menus, and plenty of bounty from weekly trips to the Oregon coast where Pierce intends to fish, forage and dig. The restaurant, aiming to open in September, will be open only three days a week and seats will be by reservation only.

The back-room move is a shift from the _Oregonian_’s previous report of a more elaborate dining room with a large bar heading for downtown’s growing West End. Following a surge in openings, Pierce says he didn’t want the expense and culinary compromises that accompany a big new downtown space.

Test dinners are tentatively scheduled for late August.

What hasn’t changed is Pierce’s intention to create Roe in the image of Fin, his shooting star restaurant on SE Hawthorne that closed abruptly in early 2011. But in its short life, Fin vaulted an unknown cook into Portland’s upper tier with a modernist seafood vision melding Asian-inspired intricacy and elaborate technique. This alone make Roe a place to watch.

Samplings from the sea have been both a consistent back note and high point at Wafu. But Japanese noodle soups are the menu’s avowed focus, frustrating Fin fans. But Roe will showcase Pierce’s strength, with seafood at the center of a la carte dishes and tasting menus (priced around $50–100 for roughly seven courses). The 30-seat space will boast its own open kitchen and six-stool chef’s counter. Benjamin Blank, a Los Angeles entertainment industry figure and one-time Fin regular, and Chefstable, Kurt Huffman’s ubiquitous Portland restaurant back office, will remain as a steadying administrative presence at Roe and Wafu.

The goal is to provide a unique Portland experience with plenty of personal attention. “I wanted a small space where I could be right there and really stretch out,” Pierce says.

Stay tuned for more details.

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