More than 50 years after he gave Seattle our very first sushi bar, Shiro Kashiba is planning a new restaurant.
The name isn't yet official, but Seattle's sushi legend has identified a spot in Bellevue that will become a showcase for chef Jun Takai. Kashiba recruited the man most people simply call "Chef Jun" from Tokyo more than a decade ago. (That was a successful recruiting trip; the other apprentice he brought over was Daisuke Nakazawa.) Chef Jun led the team at Shiro's in Belltown when its namesake departed for a retirement that proved to be short lived. He's subsequently built a following as the chef at I Love Sushi in Bellevue.
The forthcoming restaurant will occupy a ground-floor spot at the One88 condo building on Bellevue Way. It's about half the size of Sushi Kashiba, the Pike Place Market destination Shiro-san opened in 2015. The sushi counter will have 10 seats and the same ethos of omakase and Edomae-style sushi.
That's not an accident. At age 80, Shiro Kashiba is thinking about legacy, even as he still works most nights behind his sushi counter. His goal: lift up the next generation of chefs who have not only completed the rigorous training inherent to this cuisine, but also meet Shiro-level standards in their craft. His family is partnering with chef Jun for this project; Kashiba's son, Ed, will oversee operations at the new restaurant, and Shiro-san himself will continue to mentor and make the occasional appearance. The restaurant should serve its first omakase this June, though like every other aspect of life right now, that's subject to change.
Part of the legendary chef's return from retirement seven years ago was a desire to ensure Edomae-style sushi, with its traditions of local and seasonal minimalism, could still flourish alongside the (admittedly delicious) parade of tempura-bedecked, sauce-drizzled rolls that helped plant sushi in the American mainstream. He brought this approach with him from Tokyo in 1966, a young sushi chef looking to bring this cuisine to Seattle. Soon after he arrived, Kashiba recalibrated that local and seasonal ethos to match his new surroundings. His appreciation for our local geoduck transformed it from underappreciated phallic surf clam to sushi bar delicacy. That’s just one of the imprints he’s left on sushi culture in Seattle, and beyond: This week the chef received a Minister’s Award from the Japanese government. It recognizes “outstanding achievements in the elevation of Japanese cuisine overseas,” one of five people worldwide to receive the honor.