Sushi Sans Souci

By Sylvan Goldberg May 19, 2009 Published in the March 2005 issue of Portland Monthly

It seems counterintuitive that no one thought of this before. While a handful of sushi restaurants in town attract the attractives with quality fish and quaint décor, none provides the stylish setting of Masu. Huge windows brighten this second-story space during the day, but at night, dim red and orange lights create an intimate atmosphere, as glossy and elegant as the clientèle. An evening DJ spins an eclectic mix, and the glistening metallic bar, an island in the middle of the room, serves up cocktails like the litchi-juiced Tokyo Drop that subtly combine Asian flavors with hipster flair.

Even amid the luxe, the more casual gourmand will likewise be drawn to Masu, by sushi that takes its cue from the sea: simple fish, fresh and large. While the specialty rolls here can sound a bit intimidating, they’re at the heart of what separates Masu from the masses. Take the opalescent Pearl Roll, chock-full of shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber, avocado and spicy tuna with a sweet chili sauce, or the diaphanous Butterfly Roll, avocado laid over eel, crab, cucumber and just enough eel sauce to sweeten without overpowering the other flavors; you get a feel for the restaurant’s dedication to combining ingredients in unique ways. Masu also offers a range of entrées, from red-curried lamb to lobster tail, and appetizers that transcend standard dumpling fare, such as oysters and a soba noodle salad with vegetables and cashews. It all amounts to filling a role that other sushi restaurants in Portland have been unwilling to assume. As Masu picks up steam, it won’t be long before it’s filled with every fish in Portland’s sea of diners.