DK Kodama; photo courtesy of his company, DK Restaurants.

Seattleites who travel to Hawaii often end up at one of DK Kodama's seven restaurants. Now one of Hawaii's best-known chefs is headed to Seattle, opening his first mainland outpost in the new Premiere on Pine high-rise downtown.

The restaurant will be the fifth location of Sansei, Kodama's popular seafood retaurant and sushi bar that combines pristine fish and Pacific Rim flourishes. It will occupy a prominent spot at Ninth and Pine, next to the Paramount Theatre.

Sansei is the term for third-generation Japanese Americans, and for Kodama, whose grandparents were born in Japan, it also describes a menu that's rooted in Japanese culture, but has evolved and Americanized to some degree.

Sansei's other locations on Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island rely heavily on local ingredients. The Seattle Sansei will be no different. "Oh, we're definitely going to be tweaking it for Seattle," says Kodama of the menu. "You guys have so much great seafood up there."

Seattle has a reputation for being skeptical of out-of-town chefs opening here, but Oahu-raised Kodama is hardly a stranger to this part of the world. He left his engineering studies at the University of Hawaii in 1979 to move to Puget Sound, working at Arnie's in Mukilteo and Edmonds, before taking a job with the local Restaurants Unlimited group. 

Northwest diners should also appreciate his embrace of casual attire (shorts and flip-flops are always welcome in Kodama's restaurants) and the priority accorded to wine. Business partner and company wine director Chuck Furuya was just the 10th American to pass the Master Sommelier exam back in 1988. He, Kodama, and the rest of the company's senior staff plan to set up camp here for a period of months to oversee Sansei's opening this fall.

When Holland Partner Group, the developer behind the 40-story apartment tower set out to fill the 3,500-square-foot restaurant at its base, it wanted a destination presence to help bridge the gap and connect Pike/Pine's downtown and Capitol Hill corridors. Holland's lead retail guy Jeff Bernard was also looking for a restaurateur who could keep the block lively well after business hours have ended. Hence he was thrilled to connect with Kodama: "It's hard to find somebody like that who can do a line-out-the-door, big happy hour, two dinner seatings, then have a late-night sushi happy hour as well."

Sansei will also have a patio—a rarity in this part of town—as well as a lounge and a dedicated sushi bar in the dining room. More details to come, but the target open is looking like fall. The intersection of Ninth and Pine is well on its way to becoming a legitimate dining destination; Tom Douglas is on track to open the Carlile room across the street in July.

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