Since 1971, Genoa (2832 SE Belmont) has offered what many consider the best dining experience in Portland. They prepare elegant but simple Italian cuisine, served patiently over the course of several hours. Only their fourth head chef, Cathy Whims, has been with the restaurant for 18 years. When she dines out, Cathy often enjoys more exotic cuisine. Her current favorite is Restaurant Murata at 200 SW Market.

I can see why Cathy is smitten, because when I visited, Murata seemed to me like the Japanese analog to Genoa. The meal presentation is actually more of an experience than at any other restaurant I've visited, outside of Genoa. Everything from the décor to the servers to the ceramic dishes suggest that this is the most authentic Japanese dining available in Portland. There was a wealth of salt-cured seafood and pickled items, which is what I have been told is very typical of what you find in Japan. The miso soup is far and away the best I have ever tasted. A six-piece sushi plate featured the freshest offerings of the day, chosen by the sushi chef. The nigiri pieces of fish were enormous and very tasty, and the tuna rolls were filled mostly with tuna, a thin layer of rice acting more as a binding agent than as the filler. After our elegant entrees, we were brought a slice of cantaloupe, which was the perfect finish to the meal. We can safely say Cathy knows food.