Zilla Sake is a traditional sushi bar in Northeast Portland that has served as a neighborhood favorite for ten years. At Zilla Sake, sushi rolls take a back seat to in-season, superior-quality nigiri and sashimi, sourced from small local purveyors and directly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market. Our guests value our commitment to craftsmanship, meticulous sourcing of ingredients, and our selection of more than 80 premium sakes—the city’s largest sake program. At Zilla Sake, we strive to connect with our guests on a personal level, so that they may enjoy sushi and sake as much as we do.
Zilla Sake—Portland’s first dedicated sake bar—opened its doors in the spring of 2007 and quickly claimed a role at the forefront of Portland’s growing sake movement. Today, the city is one of the nation’s top sake importers per capita. At Zilla Sake, our program has grown from 40 original sake selections to 90, encompassing well-known favorites and exclusive items hand-picked by our owners. In the summer of 2008, head sushi chef Kate Koo established Zilla Sake’s sushi bar, marking its evolution into a traditional, high-end sushi destination. Classically-trained chef Sam Saltos joined the sushi team in 2010; in 2016, the partners formally took ownership of the restaurant.
Zilla Sake maintains partnerships with specialty purveyors to bring our guests the highest quality products, from locally-grown Frog Eyes Wasabi to the finest fish available from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market. We partner with those who share our passion for food, drink, and artisan craft: those companies and individuals who are not only experts in their fields, but command our love and respect for their generosity of spirit.
Kate Koo, Co-Owner
Zilla Sake head sushi chef Kate Koo began her sushi training in 2000; her education has included both traditional apprenticeships under Japanese chefs and continuous independent study. Koo’s early tutelage informs her exacting approach to the craft: one that honors sushi’s tradition of simplicity and precision while pursuing its unobtainable perfection. She opened the sushi bar at Zilla in the summer of 2008 with a focus on showcasing high quality ingredients in traditional preparations. In the nine years in charge of the sushi program at Zilla Sake, Koo has mentored many young sushi chefs, including Kenji Pakiser, who went on to become the executive chef of Kobe restaurant and sushi bar in Ashland, Oregon. She has taught numerous private sushi classes, and served as an instructor at Sur La Table from 2009 to 2012 as well as at EVOO Cooking School in Cannon Beach. Koo curates Zilla’s expansive sake program of nearly 90 selections. She is a Sake Certified Professional through John Gauntner’s Sake Professional Course. In 2016, Koo passed the international Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Sake Award Level 3 with distinction; WSET’s highest level of achievement.
Sam J. Saltos, Co-Owner
Chef Sam J. Saltos received his classical training at New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Prior to joining Zilla Sake, Saltos worked at New York’s Morimoto and the now two-Michelin-starred Acadia in Chicago. In 2011, he staged at Noma in Copenhagen, considered by many to have been, during its tenure, the world’s best restaurant. Here in his hometown of Portland, Saltos served as lead sushi chef at Departure under Gregory Gourdet, with whom he won the 2012 Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans—the first non-Gulf state to win this national competition. In January 2017, Saltos competed against Backyard Social’s Emory Brun at Plaza Del Toro’s popular cooking contest Versus; Saltos swept the event with three stunning courses that fused his classical training with simple, elegant Japanese flavors: shiso, yuzu, miso, and ponzu. Behind the sushi bar at Zilla Sake, Saltos focuses on traditional preparations such as house-made anago and Edo-style tamago-yaki.