WITH FOUR LITTLE Big Burgers sizzling across the city and two more on the way, Portland indie restaurateur Micah Camden’s reach is vast—and accessible. His latest project, Boxer Sushi, mingles his burger-flipping formula (minimalist menu, quality ingredients, modern atmosphere) with the high art of sushi.
Boxer’s menu is standard issue: omakase (chef’s choice), signature rolls, and sashimi, plus the usual à la carte checklist, from abalone to hamachi. A discernably sweeter “secret sauce” comes in lieu of soy sauce, and wasabi is grated fresh. As with Little Big Burger, Camden also brings a boozy element to the table: instead of just beer, Boxer boasts a formidable liquor cabinet, heavy on the whiskey but light on the sake.
The fish itself is high quality, flown with haste straight from New Zealand, or plucked from Oregon’s coast. The kitchen, under former Yakuza chef Ian Skomski, has sweet spots. On a good night, an uni roll shouldering creamy, briny sea urchin roe or Oregon albacore sashimi in tangy vinaigrette can be heavenly. The “violet roll” sports ribbons of salmon and white ponzu draped around Dungeness crab, avocado, and asparagus, with fried scallions adding a crisp, vegetal snap.
Consistency, however, has so far eluded the kitchen. Servers seem baffled by the menu, offering little help when it comes to explaining the omakase (not insignificant at $38 a head) or recommending a chalkboard special. Pristine cuts of yellowtail arrive buttery-tender on one night and chewy as a rare skirt steak on another. Unfortunately, “Really Spicy Tuna” comes as promised: flashes of Thai chile screech throughout, killing any hope of tasting the delicate fish. The sushi rice is flavorless and flaccid, seeming to lack the vinegar and sugar to hold it together.
Some key elements are already in place: high-quality fish and a clever, urban space. With a tighter balance in the kitchen and more finesse out front, Boxer could evolve into something special.