Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sushi round-up

It’s time to talk sushi. In a city like Seattle that’s a dangerous topic. Everyone has their favorite, and for all kinds of reasons. Location, price, ambiance, freshness of the fish, it’s all part of the mix. I’ve collected below a short list of my favorites and I invite your comments in return. Have a fabulous spot that I haven’t mentioned, or totally disagree with one of my choices? I’m always interested in getting the scoop on what’s available in and around our fair city.

Wasabi Bistro and Umi Sake House, both in Belltown, excel at what’s termed “modern Japanese cuisine” typified by the long list of wacky rolls available –- green decadence, crunchy lizard, that sort of thing. At Umi Sake I especially like Duff’s rock n’ roll, a super-human concoction of a shrimp tempura roll topped with avocado, barbecued eel, and teriyaki sauce. At Wasabi I’m a fan of the Belltown roll with crab, scallop, mayo, tobiko (flying fish roe), and cucumber topped with fresh salmon. Clearly, neither of these rolls lies within the scope of what one might consider typically delicate Japanese dining…

Musashi’s in Wallingford serves some of the biggest cuts of fish, and I particularly like the fresh salmon here. Let the consistently long lines outside (despite the cash- and check-only edict) attest to the fabulousness of what’s inside. Add to that friendly service and a very reasonably priced menu, and you’ve got a real hit with this one. Blue C Sushi in Fremont is perfectly good kaiten (conveyor belt style) sushi, and it gets points for immediacy of food and fun factor. I hear that it’s a big hit with the kids. Plus, if you find yourself at U-Village, Bellevue Square, Southcenter, or Alderwood malls with a hankering for sushi, you’ll know that this expanding sushi empire is a safe bet. Its neighbor across the street, Chiso, is another one of my favorites. Classic style sushi beautifully prepared in a lovely atmosphere.

I love Maneki in the International District for its history -- 100 years plus and still going strong -- and ambiance of old-school Japan. (Complete with the tyrannical obaasan, who might be grandmotherly in another context, but here gives you the hard stare if you have the audacity to be an irregular customer who didn’t think to make a reservation.) When I make the pilgrimage to Maneki I always include an order of the hiyayako, chilled tofu with shaved bonito flakes and thinly sliced green onion strewn over the top. My one favorite outside Seattle proper is Toyoda Sushi in Lake City. Completely unassuming but consistently delicious, they offer traditional sushi in the kind of place where you are likely to be greeted by name after just a couple of visits.

Some other resources that might be of interest:

Sushi Monsters has what appears to be a reasonably thorough list of the sushi joints in the Seattle area, as well as other resources like tutorials, recipes, and an immense gallery of photos. Though if we’re talking photos, I’m most impressed by Matthew Lankford’s array of visual deliciousness. I stumbled on Matthew and his “Sushi for 30 Days Straight” project via the All You Can Eat blog penned by Nancy Leson, former identity-withheld food critic for the Seattle Times and now its blogger and foodie-about-town among other things. Of course, there are always the reviews available on Citysearch (slightly less painful to navigate now that they have revamped the website) and on Urbanspoon if you have something in mind and just need to know some basic info.

Now go out there and get yourself some eel, or some octopus, or some sea urchin, or…

[Photo courtesy of Matthew Lankford]


  1. You hit all of my favorites, especially Maneki and Toyoda. I often feel like some sushi is well-made and well-presented, but being in the space is frustratingly busy or not inspiring enough. That's how I feel at two places not on your list - Shiro's and Shiki. The sushi is tasty enough, and the it would be much tastier if the environments were improved.

  2. Shiki has good sushi, but it's a hole-in-the-wall sushi joint. There really is a heightened importance on environment and design for a sushi restaurant, isn't there.