Old Japanese cinema posters shoot, squint, and kick their way off a long wall that leads to samurai film icons, flickering through the door of the back room. Pals, daters, and bar hoppers perch on tall stools that line a seemingly never-ending bar, where cocktails arrive with lurid colors and hand-carved ice. The music is jacked to blistering levels, like a hot peppercorn in your ear. Handrolls are packaged with roasted crab, lamb tongue comes brazenly dunked in gin-spiked ponzu, and the pork-intensive ramen is richer than Paul Allen. Welcome to Portland’s rock-’n’-roll ramen spot, where the drinking is serious and the food is designed but decidedly playful. Does it all work? It’s too early to tell. (Smoked chicken schmaltz has already been yanked from the house noodle soup formula.) But last year, chef Trent Pierce proved to be one of Portland’s most electric talents at the short-lived Fin. Now Wafu, with its nicely curated whiskey flights and sake on tap, is already as spirited as a Miyazaki movie.
Eat: Ceviche, cured saba with crystalized ginger, aburasoba (brothless ramen with pork belly, kimchi, fried egg)
Wafu appeared in our Best New Restaurants 2011 Issue. You can see images from Wafu’s opening night on our Eat Beat Blog