Bamboo Sushi at University Village. Photograph by Feed It Creative.
Decades of strong ties with Japan, an abundance of great seafood. A puckish guy by the name of Shiro Kashiba. A host of forces built Seattle’s exemplary landscape of sushi restaurants, where you can sit before a chef and submit to a traditionalist Edomae-style omakase. Or spend happy hour in the company of a cilantro-flecked tres diablos roll and a yuzu margarita—even summon nigiri via a robot. There’s a time and a place for each of these sushi philosophies, as evidenced by these great spots.
Thirty-one floors above downtown Bellevue glimmers a high-end dining destination where sushi is only half of the equation. But a mix of traditional nigiri and “contemporary rolls” like spicy tuna and prosciutto holds its own even against a menu of trophy steaks. Sit at the sushi bar, in the lounge full of panoramic views, or fold some raw fish into a beef-centric dinner experience.
The Portland favorite has an outpost at U Village, in a space as vast as Bamboo’s ambitions for sustainable seafood. Rigorous transparency and certification standards surround every piece of sashimi, but the menu’s big and has a sense of adventure—signature rolls might involve bits of lemon or frizzled onion, or a tempura green bean. The crispy rice, a patty of grains fried golden brown then topped with maki-esque trappings, has a deeply deserved fan base.
By day, workers pile in for the choose-your-own bento box lunches. By night, there’s a chill and cosmopolitan charm to this 20-year-old sushi restaurant, where chefs won’t deliver a lengthy origin story for each piece of nigiri, but will present you with pristine maki and nigiri at astoundingly reasonable prices (and maybe a fist bump if you’re a regular).
Is this a destination for thoughtful, minimalist creations, presented in a zen-like setting? Nope. But this duo of rollicking spots make an art of happy hour cocktails, warm service, and rolls festooned with cilantro, strawberry-jalapeno sauce, or the occasional fried garlic chili flakes. As the name implies, Latin flavor influences punctuate a vast menu of raw creations and cooked dishes.
For 16 years, this sushi destination defined itself by its chef, Ryuichi Nakano. In 2018, new owner Kyu Bum Han stepped in to stoke the flames of Kisaku’s many charms, from the personalized sushi counter omakase to the mix of seasonal specialties alongside impeccable maki and nigiri. This is one of those places equally suited to a special occasion or a casual weeknight family hang.
A robot brings your water and wasabi; plates of rainbow rolls and salmon nigiri flow past tables and thread along counter seats. This Japanese conveyor belt sushi chain landed with a splash in Bellevue in 2021, automating a sushi meal like nowhere else in town. Customers can request hot dishes, drinks, or a specific plate of sushi using a touch screen mounted over each seat. Customers discard empty plates into a discreet slot; consume 15 plates from the conveyor belt and you earn a prize. The sushi itself is perfectly fine, a procession that includes hot and cold, maki and nigiri, blinged-up and unadorned—plus the occasional slice of cheesecake or dish of watermelon. The most welcome technological enhancement might be the waitlist app, especially given the crowds during prime dining hours.
Hidden away behind a mondo apartment complex, Sushi Kashiba alum Keiji Tsukasaki presides over an eight-seat, 14-course omakase. No a la carte here, just that unlikely combo demanded of great sushi chefs: surgeon-level fish skills and the hosting warmth of both Martha and Snoop. He offers up seasonal treasures like aged sea bass and side-by-side uni from Hokkaido and Santa Barbara, each bite perked with hits of fresh wasabi root that languishes on its large grater like a Tim Burton artichoke. There’s a lot of talent (and a lot of Shiro Kashiba gestalt) behind this counter, but Ltd. Edition makes high-end sushi feel surprisingly casual—with help from some fun drink pairings.
This circa-1904 legend could easily coast on lore alone, from surviving war and incarceration to the motherly order imposed by longtime stewards Jean Nakayama and Fusae “Mom” Yokoyama. It’s the food, however, driving the legend. Maneki, and Shiro Kashiba, gave Seattle its first-ever sushi bar; while its soul resides in more comforting Japanese fare like that famed black cod collar, maki and sashimi and nigiri are still a welcome part of the equation.
In 2009, Hajime Sato unleashed the city’s first all-sustainable sushi restaurant. These days, three longtime employees own and run this tiny dining room and continue its essential presence in the neighborhood. The menu—a lengthy compendium of sashimi, rolls, combo options, and cooked dishes—remains a thoroughly vetted ode to sustainable seafood. But the kitchen has added more housemade ingredients and, even better, online reservations. The broad menu includes a section devoted to vegan rolls.
Capitol Hill, South Lake Union
An expansive sushi menu meets a truly stunning dining room, hidden behind a relatively staid Auto Row–era facade. What this means: elaborate rolls, raw small plates, fried bar snacks, and careful sashimi, served in a series of dining rooms that surround a tranquil central courtyard. A late-night menu (and a ton of Japanese whiskey) fuels the after-dinner crowd. The newer South Lake Union outpost recasts this formula into a more standard new construction setting, swapping late night for a great happy hour and a handful of covered patio tables.
A loosely connected series of lunch spots from Wallingford (the poster-bedecked original) to Redmond presents raw fish at its efficient, affordable best. The cult obsession centers on Musashi’s signature chirashi bowls, the most economical and purposeful way to get good quality sashimi into your mouth, but serviceable and tasty rolls balance out upgraded items like grilled hamachi collar.
There are showier sushi restaurants and omakases in the city, but this serene, art- and linen-draped dining room in Madison Park can deliver a lineup of pristine nigiri, then turn around and serve you dollops of spicy salmon tartare atop crisped rice or maki that successfully cross-pollinate foie gras and seared tuna. The menu’s vast, the clientele mostly devoted regulars, and the buzz level not nearly as loud as what this circa-1995 spot deserves.
Edmonds’ joy that chef Ryuichi Nakano relocated here glows like the neta that fills his sushi counter’s glass case. The former Kisaku chef partnered with uber-restaurateur Shubert Ho to create a legit sushi destination. At SanKai, sashimi is every bit as pure and stunning as you’d hope, and specialty rolls taste more inspired than overadorned. The menu includes a few omakase platters, but call the restaurant directly to book the six seats directly in front of Nakano-san, where he hands creations over directly.
This place has been around since 1994; namesake Shiro Kashiba sold the place two decades later. And still there’s a line of sushi fans waiting outside pretty much every day. Such is the staying power of a restaurant built on the philosophy of edomae sushi, but not blind to the appeal of a well-crafted rainbow roll. Kashiba’s original purist ban on avocado has long since lifted; during the pandemic, the kitchen added “rice burgers” to its already broad repertoire.
Pike Place Market
We’re still mourning the loss of By Tae in Chophouse Row, but a new, slightly larger hand roll bar has opened across from Pike Place Market. Its wide windows look out onto Western Avenue, and 20ish bar stools surround the chef’s workstation, ready to receive your made-to-order temaki. Hand rolls come as cigar-size cylinders or open taco-esque configurations that stay upright thanks to special holders. Diners can build a meal or just a snack from 16 options—like torched eel, spicy crab, or truffled avocado—or opt for one of the pre-selected sets. The menu also includes sake cocktails and a few starter plates, like the dubiously named, but kinda fun “norichos:” nachos made with nori chips, sauce drizzles, and flecks of Beecher’s cheese.
The personable Taichi Kitamura reigns behind the sushi bar in his sleek Eastlake dining room. So does his deep knowledge of fish. Everything from sashimi platters to the traditional chef’s omakase vibrates with seasonal, sustainable excellence. SKT’s cooked dishes rise to the same level—the chawan mushi, the grilled black cod, and the sushi menu includes an entire section of vegetarian rolls. These are special occasion–level meals served at a neighborhood restaurant frequency.
Pike Place Market
The man who gave Seattle its very first sushi bar is now in his 80s and still showing up to work most nights behind his 14-seat counter. Shiro Kashiba came out of an ill-fitting retirement to open a showcase restaurant devoted to Edomae-style sushi (a good fit given Pike Place Market’s emphasis on local producers). Peerless fish, cut by masters, drives the menu, and beverage director Keenan Ahlo matches these creations with smart pairings. Sushi Kashiba hides in a small courtyard with a fountain; you can make reservations for tables in the dining room, but the queue starts early to snag seats at the sushi bar, especially the handful of chairs in front of the master himself.
Part of the charm is traversing the beat-up passage of Broadway Alley, only to find a nine-seat sushi restaurant hidden behind a barber and a tobacco shop. Here, chef Hideaki Taneda weaves together the ornate seasonal traditions of kaiseki and a more familiar sushi omakase. Pristine nigiri might bookend ritual-thick kaiseki courses like the hassun: eight disparate bites—from a morsel of rich wagyu to broiled eel wrapped in a tamago ribbon—on a single plate. This unlikely alliance of two Japanese culinary traditions works, thanks to the meal’s measured tempo, not to mention excellent sake pours.
You could be fooled into believing that a signless restaurant on a quiet street in a nondescript building was your new little secret spot, until you pull open the orange door to find a score of regulars occupying the tables and sushi bar seats. Tsukushinbo’s 28-year run will end early this summer, when siblings Shota and Marin Caccam close the restaurant and continue their parents’ legacy with a pair of new spots on the same block of South Main Street.