Chef Caleb Vasquez Spins His Own Plates As New Chef at Yakuza

After 5 ½ years Chef Caleb Vasquez has taken over the reins of the community favorite Yakuza. Nestled in the “food corner” of Killingsworth Yakuza continues its tradition of being a neighborhood place everyone likes. The décor is intriguing and interesting with long wood platform blocks that create space for large groups who dine together alongside tucked away seating that invites private conversation, but without doubt, the outdoor dining area wins the day. A huge rustic garden bar with bright red accents among an abundance of green give just a hint of what you might expect on the plate. Yakuza does not disappoint. The food is wonderful, colorful, delicious and interesting in the mouth. Portions are just right and servers will let you know that many are shareable. We have yet to taste anything we didn’t enjoy wholeheartedly at Yakuza and often recommend it to friends, but back to the kitchen.

With a degree in Art you would hardly expect to find Chef Caleb a chef. He says, “Every skill merits into another. By accident I worked from the bottom to the top, knowing nothing, but then when I worked at Giuseppe’s I started having fun, and I decided to stay in the job and see where it would lead. As new chefs would arrive I learned from them until I felt very comfortable with the entire process of serving good food.”

He loves the Japanese style which symbolizes the cultural art there. Everything is honored in Japanese cooking, the fish is honored, the rice, the sliver that imparts just the right flavor or texture. At Yakuza he uses a NW approach to Japanese cooking, simple exceptional ingredients and a no waste kitchen. He has expanded his play as a lead chef on standards redone like using Dakota popcorn kernels in some dishes. He likes to see how much he can push the seasonings and methods while still keeping the natural flavor of the main ingredient intact. Upon eating at Yakuza it’s exciting to see a new head chef creating his own inspirations that most people would consider a culinary treasure.  No wonder Yakuza is one of those neighborhood place markers many people haven’t heard about with so much heavy competition in Portland’s food community; but, we’re glad we discovered it and can alert you to try it for yourselves and then wish as much as we do that you lived just a few blocks away.

Yakuza Chef



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