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Doctor's Orders

The Broad Treatment Options of Dr. Sushi & BBQ

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IF DR. SUSHI IS, in fact, the doctor he claims to be, I get the feeling he's a general practitioner. The newest iteration of the old Sammy's space on NW 23rd, Dr. Sushi & BBQ is kind of like the utility infielder of East Asian cuisine. The menu is page after comically large page of Pacific Rim specialties: sushi, noodle dishes, rice bowls, bento boxes, Japanese-style hot pot, Korean BBQ... plus soups, salads, cocktails, shochu, sake, etc.

For those easily overwhelmed by a glut of choices—and I count myself among you—it's probably best to enter with an angle, some degree of intention, because the pressure's on immediately. "Where would you like to sit?" the server asks. Well, that depends, because if you're going with shabu-shabu, you'll want to sit at a hot pot table; if you'd like to cook up some bulgogi beef, you'll need a grill top; if you're just interested in sushi, maybe you'll want to sit at the bar and chat up the chef about what's fresh. Your maître d', take note, is working hard for her money.

The first time I stopped in was for lunch. Not having heard much about the place one way or another, I opted for sushi, as all their basic rolls and nigiri (excepting toro) were on special for half off (which seems to be the case seven days a week, from open to close). With most of the nigiri, after discount, hovering around $2 to $3, I probably over-ordered. Not everything was a homerun, but it was still a step up from Mio Sushi and other budget-minded places in the area. The scallops were a knockout—a soft, buttery texture and that particular subtle sweetness—the escolar was great, the tuna was pretty standard, and the octopus was meh (tough, even by octopi standards). I ordered a spider roll as well, and while the soft shell crab was excellent, the roll was packed with romaine lettuce that dulled an otherwise great flavor. I was pleased with the meal, but when my ticket came and only added up to about $12, I was especially impressed. The good doctor probably can't compete with Bamboo's forthcoming Northwest outpost on the higher-end level, but, as someone who works in the neighborhood, there's a good chance I'll make him my go-to for sushi lunches.

If you're opting for BBQ, you can order your meats separately or choose one of the combo dishes aimed at groups. My party of three ordered the smallest of the five combos (ours was called "Joy," $49.95), which was more than enough food for three growing boys. If you're unfamiliar with Korean BBQ, a meal starts with banchan—a variety of small plates that serve as appetizers and palate cleansers. Ours came with kimchee, daikon, green salad with sesame dressing, and steamed egg. At some Korean restaurants the banchan ends up being the highlight of my meal; there was nothing wrong with Dr. Sushi's, but it wasn't particularly exciting either. The tofu soup, on the other hand, was spectacular. It was some variation on dubu jjigae, but a little bit spicier than what I remember from past experiences; the waiter wasn't particularly helpful with the ingredients, but I was able to gather that it was made with doenjang (a dried soybean paste) and fish sauce.

I'm not sure if it's standard practice here, if we looked particularly incompetent, or if our server just happened to be a really nice dude, but he leaned over our table to grill the meats for us, checking back every couple minutes to make sure we weren't overcooking anything. Our selection included beef brisket, pork belly, chicken, and beef bulgogi. The two beef items were the clear favorites, the bulgogi in particular. Its marinade was excellent, garlicky with just a little bit of sweetness to it. The chicken was good, even if it didn't take on a particularly exciting flavor (of course, sesame and chili-oil dipping sauces go a long way). The pork belly underwhelmed; for such a fatty cut of meat, it was a bit dry and stale. Definitely the only item we left scraps of on the grill top. Overall, Dr. Sushi's BBQ isn't quite the level of Du Kuh Bee in Beaverton, but it's still great food at a pretty reasonable price.

There's still plenty I'd like to sample—particularly the udon and shabu-shabu, considering how much I enjoyed the tofu soup. Specialization might make for a better business model, but Dr. Sushi seems like a safe bet for solid, moderately priced East Asian food, regardless of what you're craving.

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