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Image: Sarah Noble

Nodoguro was born on a lark in 2014 when chef Ryan Roadhouse—relatively new to Portland and very well versed in Japanese cooking—heard he was starting a pop-up. He took it as a sign, and actually started one with his wife Elena. In a bare-bones space on Hawthorne with changing decorations, inspired themes, and a dinner-party atmosphere, Nodoguro quickly evolved into a bona fide destination for freestyle Japanese cooking and extraordinary sushi. At its heart: expert craft, out-of-the-box thinking (food to mood), and super personalized service. In short: an experience unlike any, in Portland or beyond. PoMo tagged it Restaurant of the Year 2015.

The only question left for the Roadhouses: what was their ceiling? And could they reach it in a jerry-rigged kitchen with little more than an electric stove? After losing their lease in December, we may finally get the answer: As Eat Beat has learned, the Roadhouses just inked a five-year lease at 2832 SE Belmont St, formerly home to Portland’s landmark Genoa (the space has been empty since it shuttered two years ago).

After remodeling Genoa’s two-room interior, Nodoguro hopes to open in April, serving dinner Wednesday–Sunday. Three nights will feature Roadhouse’s themed, seasonal tasting menus, which might use a Japanese holiday, film director, or indie band as a light-hearted muse for multi-coursed seasonal dinners that can run from 11 to 21 courses: think formal Japanese without the rules. Menus will still feature rare heirloom Japanese vegetables grown for Nodoguro on a one-acre urban Portland farm. Two other nights will be devoted to Nodoguro’s wildly popular Hardcore Sushi menus—a parade of classics, snacks, and composed seafood courses featuring premiere fish from Japan’s famed Tsukiji and Fukuoka Municipal fish markets. The drink menu will continue its focus on well-curated wines and sakes. 

Eat Beat has also learned Nodoguro will launch a new, nightly mini menu of snacks and small plates served in “The Study,” an intimate eight-seat lounge that will replace Genoa’s private dining room. The idea, says Elena Roadhouse, is to open up opportunities for those looking to check out Nodoguro or just a casual but special dining experience. Reservations will be available, and customers are welcome to stay as long as they like.

Instead of investors, the Roadhouses are trying a creative crowd-funding plan at Indiegogo. Among the “perks” for mini-investors: small-sized cooking classes with Ryan Roadhouse; special memberships with access to unusual dinners, not to mention Ryan Roadhouse's hand-blown glass chopstick holders. Meanwhile, a new and informative web site is coming soon, and should help the crazy scramble for seats. (An entire month of Nodoguro dinners have been known to disappear in less than 20 minutes.) Plus, diners will be able to reach about the various menu options in advance before making reservations.

Nodoguro 2.0 will be fascinating to watch. April will be a big month for Ryan Roadhouse, who is one of 10 groundbreaking cooks featured in a new book by Roots drummer (and food fanatic) Questlove, Something to Food About. Watch out Portland: this guy is going places.

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