We recently heard from a friend about a new Japanese restaurant in download Portland called Kuu, which is a word that means “to eat” in Japanese (it has somewhat of a rough feel to it, so I recommend using the more common taberu in most situation).
The restaurant opened at 11:00 a.m., and as we waited outside the waiter came to unlock the door for us right on time (if not one or two minutes early). This gave us a good first impression of this restaurant, as opposed to having to wait outside in the cold for a long time.
While built in a relatively long, narrow area, an aesthetically pleasing layout made it a comfortable space. The front of the restaurant had a small sushi bar with a handful of tables, and the center area beyond had two food preparation areas, one ornamented with various sake bottles. On the far side of the kitchen was another seating area, this one a little more spacious and stylish. While a lot was packed into a small area, I felt it was organized in a pretty efficient way. We sat in the front seating area at one of the tables.
The waiter was friendly and responsive, and we were able to place or order soon after entering. However––and this the worst thing about the restaurant––the wait time was a bit long. While I wasn’t using a stop watch, I would guess it took over 20 minutes before we got our food. While we were waiting, two or three groups of customers came in, but it never got too busy. I think the delay was partially because there was only one chef in the kitchen (I think this is unusual, even for a restaurant of this size). After the food came to our table, we saw a third person busy in the back of the restaurant who I am guessing was the owner or manager. We weren’t in a rush, but I felt bad for the other customers that might have been on a lunch break with less time to wait.
Fortunately, all the food was great. My wife and I got beef curry and a salmon plate. While I would have preferred a little thicker sauce, the curry was delicious. My son got the Udon combo with freshly made noodles (手打ち), and well seasoned, breaded chicken. The beef curry plate came with miso soup (which was pretty authentic) and a simple salad coated with mayonnaise. The green tea was high quality too––I’ve head really bad, watered-down tea at a certain popular Japanese restaurant. There was a small plastic bowl of furikake seasoning on the table, which was a nice touch.
The price for three was reasonable (around $40 for a filling lunch). There was a bunch of other tasty-looking items of the menu that I am looking forward to trying sometime in the future. We heard from someone who didn’t like the kamameshi dish (rice cooked in an iron pot), so you may want to avoid that unless you are feeling daring.
For me, the best Japanese restaurants tend to have Japanese staff, at least in the kitchen, and this was no exception. The chef was a Japanese women (we spoke a few words with her in Japanese) and the man who arrived later looked half-Japanese.
I’ve been to a good amount of Japanese restaurants in and around Portland, and based on this meal I think this is one of the best, though I wouldn’t recommend this place if you are in a rush, or if you are looking to eat ramen (I don’t think it was on the menu). If you go, be careful since they are not open for dinner on Monday and Tuesday, at least at the time of writing this article.
By the way, after eating there I found out the official name of the restaurant is “Wa Kitchen Kuu” (website). To be honest, I don’t really like this name, but I perhaps it was targeted at people who don’t know Japanese. I admit “Kuu” has a nice ring as long as I don’t think about what it means.
If you do visit Kuu, I would consider checking out another new store that is right next to it, “11:11” (website). While I haven’t figured out the meaning of the name yet, they are a spacious shop that sells various work supplies such as calendars, notebooks, and writing implements. For whatever reason a large amount of their goods were Japanese-made (roughly 30-40% based on what I saw).