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Sep 29, 2008 11:58 PM

SEA - Looking for best traditional sushi

I am looking for the best, most traditional sushi in Seattle or eastside. Price is no object. I want the kind of place that serves only sushi/sashimi, not ridiculous rolls with spicy mayo and cream cheese, where they cook and serve the guts of a baby abalone after you eat the flesh, where the rice is slightly warm and the fish cool, where omakase starts with sashimi and maybe gives me something i've never had before. Maybe this is too much to ask for and I'm hoping seattle can deliver but I've yet to find what I'm looking for. Please Help!

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  1. Nishino has the best o-toro and escolar (for those who like it) and you can always specify "sushi/sashimi only" for their omakase. Umi often serves unusual cuts of Japanese fish (at unusually high prices too). You can also try Kisaku. Kappo (above Chiso) is perhaps the most traditional and esthetic sushi bar (looks like Urasawa) but as a 1-man shop has limited selection and high prices. Shiro is a favorite of some but will not torch their sushi or provide crispy fish bone, and tends to serve unusually small pieces in my experience. Virtually every place still has spicy mayo for those who like it. For a different take on raw fish, try the sashimi at Crush.

    2 Replies
    1. re: barleywino

      I had omakase for the first time with Shiro on Friday. It was a great experience, definitely one of the best of its kind for me. I can't remember every item, but it started with the house poke, and then followed with cold battered smelt ("from la push"), with hot fried fish bone, then proceeded to a "tuna festival" including a torched piece of o-toro. The quality of the nigiri was very high, with considerable variety including a few I had never tried before. The albacore belly and the smelt nigiri were excellent.

      The only complaint was that he was a bit rigid about the procession and seemed bent on adhering to a set menu rather than allowing interaction. I realize that one should anticipate that with this format, I just expected that when we asked for "sushi and sashimi" he would have had included some of the latter, which is more typical for my limited omakase experiences. I did note that we did not get exactly what the pair next to us got, but it was similar. He all but insisted on a simple persimmon dessert that we would have otherwise passed on. We expressed great interest in the live urchins sitting on the counter, but our nigiri were drawn from a plastic tray.

      Total was $112. Its not the easiest balance to strike when you effectively give the chef carte blanche. No doubt it was a delicious meal. For me, the ideal omakase involves just the right measure of flexibility.

      1. re: equinoise

        thanks for your report. apparently he saves his "best" stuff for omakase customers. This has happened to me before there, i asked for otoro, he told me he didn't have any, then served some to another customer, who presumably was having omakase. same with the seared fish and the fish bone, apparently. Nishino provides those items without discriminating between different "classes" of diners. since i like to exercise some control over what i get (like, no flounder or whitefish, no tuna unless fatty etc), Shiro's traditional shut-up-and-eat style where there is no flexibility would not be ideal for me either. PS i did have a nice hamachi kama there recently (but his tatsuta age has gone downhill imo).

    2. Maneki, Shun, and Shiros are my favorites in town. Chiso is also a solid choice.

      Umi is too much of a scene with verrry inconsistent quality. Wasabi Bistro - forget about it.

      I've never been to Nishino but hear it is great, but you can probably get just as good for cheaper elsewhere in the city.

      Other CH'ers are right - there will always be the Americanized rolls on menus, but so what - sit at the bar and don't even look at the menu.

        1. re: hhlodesign

          I second Chiso Kappo and Nishino.

          Nishino has a great omakase and one of their chefs previously worked at the famous Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills.

          But I would recommend Kappo above Chiso in Fremont. I called in before going and spoke with the owner/chef Tai-ichi. He seemed hesitant at first and once he found out that i was NOT looking for rolls and that looking for very traditional and authentic Nigiri and Omakase he invited me to park in the building's garage. To my surprise, he had the waitress greet me in the parking lot and walk me in to Kappo. Kappo provides a very distinctive private chef/sushi bar setting and if not super busy, Tai-ichi will sit down and give you his full attention to what sushi you are absolutely craving.

          btw, his geoduck was amazing.

          3520 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

          1. re: shaolinLFE

            i find that Kappo often has very limited selection (ymmv). Their cooked food options are also few, so that i've actually left there still hungry.

        2. I'll second Maneki for traditional. You won't find anything with cream cheese there. I really enjoy the atmosphere and the service style, like you're being served by mom and grandma.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dagoose

            I find Saito's to be traditional and of good quality. I hear more Japanese-language exchanges at the bar there than any of the others mentioned above, FWIW. I always get ebi heads fried after eating the tails. Obviously, Saito serves some whimsical rolls like anywhere else, but that doesn't mean you have to order them. If you go on a quiet night and just deal at the bar with Saito or a competent lieutenant, explaining what you are looking for, I would think you'll have a fine experience.

            Kisaku is less traditional but very good (people complain about the temperature and seasoning of the rice but to me it's a non-issue because my sushi ken is limited on this point and I generally favor sashimi). Nishino and Chiso (never been to Kappo) are much more expensive than Saito's or Kisaku and only marginally better quality if you are sticking to only sushi/sashimi and not cooked items. Maneki is venerable and great, but its sushi is mid-range quality. Umi's fish is better quality than Maneki's but Umi anything but for a James Bond 007 roll?. One pays for the scene there.

          2. I'm looking forward to the sake dinner at Chiso Kappo tomorrow. Kanpai!

            2 Replies
            1. re: SauceSupreme

              One word: awesome.

              I'm definitely coming back. Here's my blog post with pictures: