Murata

Eating at humble little Restaurant Murata makes me feel so American—bumbling and undainty and in serious need of chopsticks training, sushi etiquette lessons, and clean, hole-free stockings, which suddenly become a dire social necessity when a tatami room is unexpectedly booked by my dining companion and my shoes must be removed without prior warning.

Eating at humble little Restaurant Murata makes me feel so American—bumbling and undainty and in serious need of chopsticks training, sushi etiquette lessons, and clean, hole-free stockings for the tatami room.

Tucked into an uncharismatic mini-mall across from downtown’s Keller Auditorium, sake box-sized Murata is practically invisible to the naked eye until you get close enough to see the tie and white coat-clad sushi chefs—one of whom is the 79-year-old Mr. Murata himself—behind the diminutive sushi bar in the far corner. Above them hang autographs procured from the restaurant’s more famous patrons, like Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Food Network’s Alton Brown, who enthusiastically declares Murata “the best raw fish I’ve ever had!”

Gracious kimono-clad servers float between the kitchen and the six-table dining room bearing plates of house-smoked salmon sashimi, sweet shrimp and geoduck nigiri, soft shell spider rolls, bowls of shrimp and vegetable tempura-topped udon, flaky salted and broiled fresh salmon accompanied by soft savory egg custard and pickled daikon, tiny pink whitebait with rice and seaweed in piping hot housemade fish stock, market-fresh delicacies like whole Oregon Dungeness crabs, and the “parent and child” Oyakdon donburi, a belly-warming concoction of both chicken and egg served over a bowl of Murata’s feathery sushi rice.

During lunch share the tiny dining room and three tatami rooms with a steady stream of business lunchers and midday regulars, and on evenings when the adjacent Keller Auditorium holds an event, expect a well-dressed, holes-in-their-socks-free dinner crowd.

Details

Cuisine: Japanese

Executive Chef: Ryoshiro Murata

Owner: Ryoshiro Murata

Atmosphere: Small, sake box-sized dining room and sushi bar with a very authentic feel and gracious but no-nonsense service, tucked away in an unlikely downtown location that somehow adds to the charm

Outdoor seating: No

Best Seat: At the sushi bar or in a tatami room

Noise Level: Quiet

Dress Code: Casual, but many patrons are dressed up because of the proximity to office buildings and the Keller Auditorium

Bring the Kids: No

Bathrooms: Back of the dining room, on your way into the kitchen

Parking: Street parking is metered (Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 1-7pm) and difficult to find nearby, but if you park in the 200 Market Street Building pay lot just to the right of the restaurant, Murata will validate up to two hours

Cocktails: No

Beer: Yes

Wine: Yes

Sake: Yes

Tea: Yes

Ideal Meal: Smoked salmon sashimi, scallop nigiri, tempura udon, ochazuke, broiled salmon with salt

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes

Gluten Free: Yes

Good for the following occasions: Power Lunch, Pre-Theater Dinner, Solo Dining, Fish With Friends

Group/Private Party Details: With at least 48 hours advance notice, the kitchen will prepare a seven to nine course kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) for your party at a fixed price per person (the minimum is generally around $100 per person depending on current market prices), just call for more information.

Reservations: Yes

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No