My son's 16th birthday is coming up and in preparation for a trip to Japan with him we are wanting to go out and sample some food in Seattle. Looking for something that would be as close to what we would find in Japan as we can. We are very ignorant when it come to Japanese food save for a small amount of sushi that probably wasn't very good. A place with sushi as well as some small plates that could be shared would be a bonus. Also someplace that would have a knowlagable wait staff that would be able to give direction and explain what we are eating? I know, I'm not looking for much here....
DC, Shiro's serves an excellent range of authentic Japanese fare. (Not just Sushi.) I have always found their staff to be very attentive and helpful.
You're going to get a flood of good recommendations, so I won't go too deep into that, except to say that it will help if you try and expose him to a wider range of dishes than just sushi/sashimi--there's quite a bit more to Japanese cuisine than that. Ramen and other noodles (udon, soba) are a mainstay over there, for example, and ramen in partic is quite affordable. Give Samurai Ramen, in the Uwajimaya bldg, a try, to get a foretaste of what you may encounter. The other thing I'd urge him to do is try and get a grip, so to speak, on chopstick use. Knowing how to wield chopsticks will make him look a little better to the locals and help guarantee that he doesn't starve. Here's a little animated link that may help:
To start out, just think, "Top one moves, bottom one doesn't."
Definitely second the Nishino recommendation. Also try Flo in Bellevue for delicious seasonal specials, and Fort St. George in the International District for the kind of day-to-day food you won't find at most Japanese restaurants.
This Japanese American suggests Tsukushinbo in the ID. Noodle dishes and tempura there are very good and reasonably priced. Sushi is good too and also reasonably priced. There's always a big board of what I assume are small plate specials, but it's only in Japanese and I confess I have not ordered off it, being a big noodle fan. Mike, the owner, is very friendly and speaks good English--you could ask his advice. This place was recommended to me years ago by a Japanese sushi chef who used to have a place on Bainbridge Island--he said the dashi (the broth they use for the noodles) wasn't as salty as other places, and he was right.
Keep this in mind, however--nothing you can get anywhere in the States can approach the variety of what's available in Japan, where dishes are both regional and seasonal. One of the big reasons to go to Japan is to eat.
On nights when they are not too busy, I suspect someone would be happy to explain things to you. So avoid Fridays and Saturdays for sure.