Best Asian Restaurants: Sushi

Northwest by Far East: the Insider’s Guide to Asian Food in Seattle

January 25, 2011 Published in the February 2011 issue of Seattle Met


From top: Spider roll, salmon roe, rainbow roll.

Food Styling: Tyler Rebman
Prop Stylist: Gabriel Trivelas

Image: Paul Kooiman

Japonessa Sushi Cocina
Why yes, those are jalapenos cradling your snow crab legs and eight-spiced tuna. It may be downtown’s sushi cocina, sexing up Japanese food with Latin inflections (chili ponzu, mango shiso glaze), but purists take heart: The chef is the seasoned Billy Beach—Umi alum and onetime Kushibar owner—and the sushi is consistently more substantive and solidly prepared than all the noise might suggest.

Who’s here Hot young things, packing the bar.
Don’t miss Toothsome agedashi tofu and tempura-fried brie, followed by a monstrous Street Fighter II roll.
Pssst When isn’t it happy hour here? Even midday diners get deals, including $4 rolls and $8 sashimi.

Japonessa Sushi Cocina, 1400 First Ave, Downtown, 206-971-7979;

Warm and sweet as the inside of a yam, Kisaku offers the deep skill of sushi craftsman Ryuichi Nakano along with the sort of neighborhood hospitality that welcomes toddlers to the sushi bar. With shy grace Nakano-san presents an unusual diversity of seasonal delicacies—cod sperm sacs, green sea urchin—along with more usual suspects, then under-charges for them.

Who’s here Must be neighbors, because street parking in this Tangletown tangle is near nonexistent.
Don’t miss Sitting at the bar to enjoy Nakano-san’s selection in the form of chef’s choice omakase. Non–sushi eaters should order the mackerel in syrupy miso sauce, a revelation.
Pssst Nakano-san (@kisakusushi) tweets his daily fresh sheet!

Kisaku, 2101 N 55th St, Ste 100, Wallingford, 206-545-9050;

The most unpretentious sushi bar in Seattle is the tchotchke-riddled province of Ken Yamamoto—a guy so modest and genial it’s hard to believe he has a license to kill you. (See below.) Even non-death-defying diners should perch at the sushi bar and put themselves into the master’s able hands: His fish is consistently prime, his variety exemplary, the authenticity quaint.

Who’s here Japanese TV on the flat screen is just part of the attraction for homesick Japanese.
Don’t miss His “name-your-price” omakase, where he’ll load you up with however much of the freshest raw fish of the day your amount—starting at $25—will buy.
Pssst Ken-san is one of just 17 chefs in the U.S. licensed to serve fugu, raw puffer fish that can lethally poison you if prepared incorrectly. It’s $220 per person—seems like they should pay you, but what do we know—and in season right now! Lucky you!

Shiki, 4 W Roy St, Queen Anne, 206-281-1352

Shiro's Sushi Restaurant
Shiro Kashiba was the first to bring sushi to Seattle (see Maneki in Home-Style Japanese) and arguably the finest, known for turning this region’s underwater bounty into pristine sashimi, dazzling in its simplicity and flawlessly cut. And although he’s no longer sole owner (he sold to the I Love Sushi people), the aesthetically flavorless Belltown room still delivers sushi that’s anything but.

Who’s here The fortunate. Shiro’s is pricey.
Don’t miss Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays—when the impish maestro himself mans the sushi bar. Put yourself in his hands and watch him go.
Pssst Shiro-san has trained a number of Seattle’s best sushi chefs, including those at such beloved institutions as Hana, Miyabi, Sushi Kappo Tamura (see below), and Shiki (see above).

Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant, 2401 Second Ave, Belltown, 206-443-9844;

Sushi Kappo Tamura
Taichi Kitamura’s sleek, serene new sushi/omakase space on Eastlake is rapidly giving the elder-statesmen in town a run for their money. Sushi-philes love Taichi-san’s impeccable sourcing, how he nabs the freshest ocean smelt or albacore just at their ephemeral best, his approachable charisma at the bar. And—unusually in a sushi house—cooked food is equally attended to here, like black cod collar in sweet mirin boshi, or pan-seared scallops with tender Mishima Ranch short ribs over mustard greens.

Who’s here A fleet of servers who really know their food.
Don’t miss Taichi-san’s omakase, or chef’s choice, dinner. Best in the city right now, folks.
Pssst Pay attention to the rice. The ratio of rice to vinegar to sugar must change seasonally, which Kitamura exploits to delectably firm effect.

Sushi Kappo Sushi, 2968 Eastlake Ave E, Eastlake, 206-547-0937;

NEXT: Best Szechuan

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