Bryan Richardson
Hama Sushi
4232 NE Sandy Blvd
249-1021

Sushi restaurants are something like Britney Spears--trendy, and sort of over. That doesn't mean, however, that either is entirely irrelevant. A decent piece of Spears gossip can spice up a middling conversation (or People magazine cover), and a trip to a good sushi bar can be the spark that ignites an exciting culinary evening. I'm not ready to toss either aside entirely, although a new Portland sushi bar isn't a new clarklewis, just like a Britney Spears wedding is no Lindsay Lohan boob job.

If you're still a fan of sushi or, like me, crave it intensely every once in a long while, you can spend your sushi dollars with enthusiasm at Hama. A clean, orderly, and exceptionally friendly sushi bar on Sandy Blvd, Hama has managed to pump new life into the Portland sushi scene. With a huge selection of fish, a large menu, and sushi chefs who are serious about their trade, you can expect some of the freshest, tastiest, and most dazzling sushi around.

Not to miss are Hama's special hand rolls--giant cones of seaweed filled with generous amounts of fish and vegetables, including two full slices of perfectly ripe avocado in both the spicy California and the masterfully fashioned eel hand roll. The most exciting roll I tried, though, was the spicy tuna. Small chunks of flavorful tuna tossed in a creamy, slightly spicy marinade poked up over the top of the seaweed like a bouquet of flowers. The roll was rich and fresh, and my dining partner and I were disappointed we'd only ordered one.

Not for long though, because next came a huge plate of Hama's big-sized rolls--equally compelling, artistic masterpieces made with fish and vegetables surrounded by seaweed, then the seaweed surrounded by a layer of perfectly sticky rice, then the rice decorated with tiny little flying fish eggs (or tobiko). The eggs decorated the sushi with their bright orange color, adding a delicious crisp texture and the heavenly saltiness of caviar.

Hama also serves the standard smaller sushi pieces, but their larger creations are more inventive and filling. Along with the abundance of sushi, we ordered the sweet cucumber salad with amazingly fresh and colorful octopus (suckers included), the tangy spicy squid salad, and the addictive salted edamame. I passed on the sake choices and instead enjoyed a huge mug of green tea with my dinner.

It's also notable that Hama serves authentic Japanese ramen--an artistic, hearty staple food you can only truly appreciate after a trip to Japan, or in my case a viewing of the mouthwatering Japanese film Tampopo. Try watching this movie, then heading to Hama for the ramen you'll be desperately craving.

Honestly, before a reluctant trip to Hama my enthusiasm for sushi bars was at an all time low. Now though, I guess you could say I'm back on the sushi train--a turn as amazing and liberating for me as a divorce from Kevin Federline might be for Britney.