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One of the great pleasures of spending my summers in Portland is the opportunity to try new restaurants that set a high bar for ingenuity and innovation. This year, the standout - by far - is Afuri.

My first exposure to Afuri was over on the east side, in a beautifully designed bar and restaurant that is quite the hot spot. I did a little research in advance, and learned that this Afuri is the first outpost in the US created by a Japanese restaurant company that located in Portland because the water from Mount Hood closely resembles that from Mount Afuri in Japan, which, it says, “has long been revered as a sacred place of harvest; the unique geography creates ideal spring water, perfect for ramen making … Portland offered us something no other US city could;  soft water from a pure source within close proximity.”

We found the food to be amazing. Among the varieties of sushi we tried were: snow crab, big eye tuna, kewpie mayo, yuzu, shiso, cucumber, sesame … bluefin tuna, asparagus, ume, grilled scallion, kaiware, sesame seed … and king salmon, snow crab, lemon, avocado, cucumber, kaiware. It was just extraordinarily fresh and flavorful, and required a return visit just so we could have the experience a second time.

Then, I made the best discovery - Afuri has opened a restaurant on the west side, within walking distance of the apartment I use in Portland (located right in between Voodoo Doughnuts and Stumptown Coffee - talk about all your major food groups!). This version, as I understand it, is much closer to the style restaurants they operate in Japan - you order at the register, find a seat, and they bring you your food.

I’ve now been a couple of times, just so I can try different things. My favorites to this point - the soft shell crab bun, served with spicy mayo, kimchi and red leaf lettuce … the crispy poke tacos … and the ebi spring rolls, made from shrimp, whitefish, onion, yuzu and sweet chili. (Pics at left. Be still my heart.)

This Afuri has been running a promotion with local breweries this summer, and during one of my visits I enjoyed a Basecamp Farmhouse Ale, which was perfect with the subtle and tender flavors of the food.

And one other thing - they make this amazing cocktail called an Endomame, which is made from house snap pea vodka, lemon, egg white, and mint. This is a big Wow.

Afuri in Portland … pick either version, and you won’t be sorry.

Some quick movie takes…

The Equalizer 2 is a sequel to the Antoine Fuqua-directed, Denzel Washington movie about a former intelligence agent, Robert McCall, who finds himself helping people in trouble without any other recourse. The movies are based on an old late 1980s TV series that starred British actor Edward Woodward in the role.

The movie versions are considerably more brutal, though I was surprised when some critics wrote the the sequel was more violent than the first one; I had the opposite reaction, though the differences are marginal at best.

Essentially, these movies belong the movie sub-genre that focuses on aging men who manage to transcend their years while beating up bad guys; they always feature aging actors like Liam Neeson or Kevin Costner or Pierce Brosnan, and, to be honest, I kind of like them, probably because these actors are all about my age, even if I think most of these projects are what used to be called b-movies.

That’s pretty much what The Equalizer 2 is - not a great movie, but better directed than written, and generally entertaining because Washington is so invested in the role. He’s one of our best movie actors, extraordinary in prestige projects and lifting up movies like this one.

Ant-Man and The Wasp is a sequel to the original Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in the title roles, and Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and Michael Pena in supporting roles. That’s pretty A-list talent, which is a Marvel hallmark - they get terrific actors to be in movies that often are trifles, and that makes them seem better than they are.

That's certainly the case here. It doesn’t really break any new ground, and there’s not much plot, though Lilly is terrific and it is nice to see a woman in a superhero role. It’s all fun and harmless and the best moment in the movie comes in the middle of the end credits when we get a sense of how the film is linked to the timeline in which Avengers: Infinity War took place.

• And … another sequel … let’s sing the praises of Incredibles 2, which comes 14 years after the terrific original film, directed by Brad Bird, though the movie begins just moments after when the first one ended.

It is just great fun, with Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson all seeming to have a great time voicing their various characters. There’s a feminist tilt to this one, which seems appropriate for 2018, and once again the animation is extraordinary. One of the best things about the original was that its superhero story seemed rooted in a very specific reality, and this one is as well.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.


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