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Looking for the best sushi in Seattle

MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 08:13 AM

I will have one night in town on business and have a craving for good West Coast fish. I have been to Seattle a few times before and ate at Shiro's and Saito. Is Shiro's still the best place? I am looking for a traditional place that has the best variety of fish that is not easy to locate on the East Coast.

What is the latest word as to the Seattle Sushi scene as of April 2010?


2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

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  1. MVNYC RE: MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 08:16 AM

    Also wondering what local fish are in season now? Last summer I had the most wonderful live spot prawns that were still moving on the plate, not sure if I am too early for those.

    I am staying downtown but I will have a car

    1. Tom Armitage RE: MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 11:13 AM

      There are lots of previous posts on sushi in Seattle, including http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6896... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5862.... Needless to say, different people have different opinions, which to some extent depend on whether they like classic edo-style sushi or Americanized sushi such as California rolls. For traditional sushi, the two front runners are Shiro and Kisaku. As a first-timer at Shiro (as opposed to a well-heeled regular or a celebrity), you risk paying a very high price for indifferent and neglectful service. My personal favorite for high quality, unusual seasonal specialties, and reasonable (though not cheap) prices is Kisaku. The owner and itamae at Kisaku, Nakano-san, posts his seasonal speciaties on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kisakusushi. See also, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6892.... If you decide to go to Kisaku, I recommend reserving a spot at the section of the sushi bar manned by Nikano-san. For “modern” sushi, Nishino and Mashiko each have their advocates. Although the itamae at Nishino worked at Matsuhisa in Los Angeles, which pioneered the “sushi nouveau” movement, I’ve personally had some terrible experiences at Nishino, which largely caters to a well-to-do Madison Park crowd. Mashiko in West Seattle provides a young, hip, trendy scene featuring sustainable sushi Kappo is sometimes mentioned in connection with sushi, but a “kappo” (a Japanese term for a type of restaurant that serves mostly cooked food.) is a different type of restaurant than a sushi-ya. In any event, Kappo is temporarily closed pending its reincarnation as Tamura Sushi Kappo on Eastlake in the summer of 2010. Other sushi restaurants that have their advocates include Chiso (with mixed reviews since a change of ownership), Taka Sushi in Lynwood (food writer Nancy Leson’s fave), Miyabi Sushi on Southcenter Parkway (favored by former Seattle Weekly food critic Jonathan Kauffman) and, for perhaps the best bargain in town if you aren’t a fanatic about quality and won’t mind the lack of non-mainstream seasonal specialties, Toyoda Sushi on Lake City Way. You will find some references to Saito’s, but it is closed. The former owner and itamae at Saito’s, Yutaka Saito, is now at Mistral Kitchen on Westlake Ave.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Tom Armitage
        MVNYC RE: Tom Armitage Apr 21, 2010 12:34 PM

        Thanks for the reply Tom. I started a new thread to see how things differed as of right now. From your descriptions it would seem like Kisaku looks like it would be the place for me to go. I am looking for a traditional Sushi Ya with an emphasis on non mainstream seasonal specialties. Basically looking for pristine Edo style nigiri. The only thing that makes me a little bit nervous about Kisaku (twitter link doesn't work by the way) is that they seem to have a bunch of crazy rolls. I am curious as to what they are offering right now as I will be in town next week.

        The last time I was in town I had a really nice meal at Shiros with a nice mix of seasonal specialties. Of the two spot prawns, I got one head deep fried and the other on the rec of the sushi ya broiled. It was a nice touch. He also started giving me all sorts of stuff once he realized I liked the more obscure items.

        2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

        1. re: MVNYC
          UnderemployedInNYC RE: MVNYC May 6, 2010 04:59 PM

          My vote goes to Shiro. If you've got the budget for it (and I did since dinner wasn't on me), just tell them to let the chef pick whatever he wants to give you. Really amazing.


          2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

        2. re: Tom Armitage
          MVNYC RE: Tom Armitage Apr 21, 2010 12:36 PM

          The items on your meal in February definitely spark my interest, how much did that meal run you? I think Kisaku may fit the bill

          1. re: MVNYC
            Tom Armitage RE: MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 03:53 PM

            Don’t get me wrong, Shiro’s is excellent. My previous words of warning are based on the comments of others to whom I’d recommended Shiro’s, who came away feeling slighted and neglected. As you know, the art of eating sushi has a lot to do with your personal relationship with the itamae and his knowledge of your palate and level of sophistication – a fact of life that some Chowhounders find offensive. With respect to the inclusion of American-style sushi at Kisaku, I’m afraid this is a practical economic necessity. Unlike some sushi-ya in, say, Los Angeles and San Diego, where I’m one of very few non-Japanese customers, the Seattle sushi scene relies heavily on non-Japanese patrons, many of whom are far from being sushi tsujin. But you can get still get authentic Edo-style sushi at Kisaku, as well as Shiro’s. I don’t know why you had trouble with the Twitter link. Try typing in the URL manually and see it that works. I just did so and it worked just fine for me. Nikano-san’s latest Tweet was on April 19, but it just stated that Kisaku is participating in the Seattle Restaurant Week promotion of a 3-course meal for $25. Prior to that, he posted the availability of Columbia River spring run salmon (my favorite salmon after Yukon River kings) as of April 15. On April 14, he had half-beak, firefly squid, wild yellowtail, sardine, golden-eye snapper, grunt, and bluefish. I suggest following his Twitter page for updates. Regarding cost, my wife and I typically eat a pretty large quantity of sashimi and sushi, including some of the higher priced items like otoro, mixing in one or more cooked items on occasion, With beer/sake, tax, and tip our bill is usually in the $125 to $175 range for two. Based on experience, I can assure you that the same quantify of food and beverages at Shiro’s would be substantially more expensive. What I often tell people is that if you want the best sushi regardless of price, go to Shiro’s; but if quality/price ratio is a consideration, go to Kisaku. I personally don’t think the quality difference between Shiro’s and Kisaku is all that great.

            1. re: Tom Armitage
              RandyB RE: Tom Armitage May 5, 2010 11:04 AM

              Bluefish, really? I've only had it on the East Coast, where you only want to eat it on the day it's caught. My favorite restaurant for bluefish (in Manhattan) had its own boat. Caught in the morning off Long Island, in the dining room that night, or the next day at the latest. I loved it, although many find it too strong even when perfectly fresh.

              I didn't think we had bluefish on our side of the Pacific. Has this changed, or is it a different fish with the same name?

              1. re: RandyB
                Tom Armitage RE: RandyB May 5, 2010 12:31 PM

                It was a Japanese bluefish, called “mutsu.” It’s very different from the bluefish that is caught along the east coast of the United States. The Japanese bluefish has bone-white meat, a fairly dense texture, a wonderful delicate flavor, and is not oily. It is almost the exact opposite of the dark, oily, strongly flavored meat of the Atlantic bluefish, which I also love to eat. The Atlantic bluefish spends the winter months on the Florida coast, then migrates north spending the summer months off the coast of Massachusetts and other northeastern states. I can occasionally find it at Seattle fish markets, including the Whole Foods Market near Roosevelt & 65th, but you have to inspect it carefully before buying it, because Atlantic bluefish rapidly deteriorates and gets mushy if it has been around for a while, especially if it hasn’t been handled properly (bled immediately after it is caught, gutted, and iced). For this reason, Atlantic bluefish is, as you suggest, much better eaten on the east coast on the day it is caught. There’s a wonderful book on Atlantic bluefish fishing by John Hersey, entitled “Blues,” which captures the New England lore of bluefish fishing, as well as the philosophy and natural history associated with it, plus recipes for cooking bluefish. It’s a great read.

                1. re: Tom Armitage
                  Kazy Ctn RE: Tom Armitage May 17, 2010 02:15 PM

                  I was wondering who eats that... I remember going night fishing for Atlantic Blues in my teens. We'd catch it by the boatload and sell it off to the markets when we got back around 8 a.m. It was the fishiest fish I've ever experienced - none of my friends would touch it...

                  1. re: Kazy Ctn
                    MVNYC RE: Kazy Ctn May 17, 2010 07:06 PM

                    Bluefish is actually really tasty provided it is very fresh. I eat a lot of it here on the East Coast. Then again I enjoy fuller flavoured fish

        3. MVNYC RE: MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 01:10 PM

          Also I know we are nearing the end of Oyster season but where should I go for a good Oyster selection? Elliot's seems to be popular, how about that? How does their happy hour work?

          2 Replies
          1. re: MVNYC
            Tom Armitage RE: MVNYC Apr 21, 2010 04:10 PM

            The Pacific Northwest oysters are still in prime-time. They don’t start spawning – when they turn soft and milky – until the warm summer months. (In order to have some raw oysters available in these months, sterile non-spawning oysters have been developed by crossbreeding tetraploid and diploid oysters to produce a triploid oyster. But I still find that the warmer water temperature in summertime results in a less firm, and less desirable, oyster.) Elliott’s is my favorite place for sampling a wide variety of Pacific Northwest oysters. With respect to Elliott’s Oyster Happy Hour, see my recent Chowhound post at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7007... for an explanation of why I don’t think that a visitor should bother with it. The main reason is that you will be limited to only one or possibly two types of oysters of the house’s, not your, choice. It’s an effective device to get rid of oysters that are in large supply and aren’t moving quickly, often because they are not among those that are most highly recommended.

            1. re: Tom Armitage
              MVNYC RE: Tom Armitage Apr 22, 2010 07:51 AM

              Tom-Thanks for the recommendations, I think i will try out Kisaku and Elliots non happy hour and report back.

          2. MVNYC RE: MVNYC May 12, 2010 09:34 AM

            Quick trip report. I ended up at Shiro's because I was staying nearby and did not have a car. I sat at the bar and had another amazing meal. I ordered a few pieces at first, some gizzard shad, some iwashi and a few other obscure choices. After that he sort of took over and I had an excellent variety of fish, some I have never had before.

            Also went to Elliots for Oysters. While I understand the dissenting opinion regarding the happy hour, to me it was fantastic. I was able to get there at 3pm and I got a dozen of the ones they had available. After that I was able to try two dozen of some other varieties along with some decent micro brew. Since you can still order off of the regular oyster menu it seemed like a pretty good deal to me. The happy hour variety were very good so it is a pretty good deal.

            Thanks for the recs. I hope to get back soon

            2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

            2 Replies
            1. re: MVNYC
              jimhsu RE: MVNYC Apr 18, 2011 07:19 AM

              Where you end up sitting at Shiro's sushi bar and whether Shiro San is working that night both make a big difference.

              2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

              1. re: jimhsu
                equinoise RE: jimhsu Jun 18, 2012 12:07 PM

                I think I have just had my last visit to Shiro's. I have had some memorable experiences in the past, but a recent night (with the eponymous sushi-ya absent) was quite dissapointing. I called and asked about seating at the bar, and was told if I came in at the expected time, it would not be a problem. Not so, and when we arrived only a table in the spill-over back room was available. We looked through the paper list, and despite assistance from a server, could not discern anything that was particularly fresh or local (not to say the fish ultimately served was spoilt, just very generic compared to the other places mentioned in this thread). I asked about the provenance of the salmon and was told it was Atlantic, which is really a shame considering the copper river fish were coming in.

                Perhaps most appropriately, the best thing tasted was "Shiro's Roll," a lip-smacking congress of pickled mackeral, ginger, and shiso leaf. Let it serve as a lasting tribute to the man, who well deserves an honorable retirement.

            2. e
              equinoise RE: MVNYC Mar 13, 2012 12:26 PM

              This is an older thread, but I just had a recent visit to Sushi Kappo Tamura and was reminded that it needs to remain part of this conversation. Had a good selection of fish, including my personal best piece of geoduck, luscious hamachi belly, cured yellow-eye snapper with a touch of ginger and scallion, sweet, briny uni, and a wonderfully oily dose of herring. Perhaps the overall selection is not as wide as Kisaku, and the prices are higher. But what sets SKT apart are of course the "ippin" items, of which this time we selected a tempura assortment with massive wild prawns and shishito peppers, and a chawan mushi with bits of cod and local mushrooms. I also think SKT is better when it comes to sake and cocktail selection.

              I still can't resolve the deadlock between Kisaku and SKT in my personal estimation, but these two are a cut above the rest for me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: equinoise
                Tom Armitage RE: equinoise Mar 13, 2012 03:08 PM

                There’s no need to “resolve” the choice between Kisaku and Sushi Kappo Tamura, Equinoise. They are both more than worthy places to eat and, as you so well point out, offer different types of experiences. I don’t think that having a wide variety of seafood is a necessary feature of a great sushi-ya. I know of many extraordinary sushi-ya that feature a limited selection, but of uniformly amazing quality. That said, I do enjoy the fact that Nikano-san has a wide variety of seasonal seafood at Kisaku, including many items that are not to be found at most Seattle sushi restaurants. Recently, for example, he had shirako (cod sperm sacs), which I happen to adore, and he prepared them in several different ways. When I eat at Kisaku (which is often), I always start by asking what special seasonal items are available. This almost always leads to some very interesting and unusual items. Anyway, I agree that Sushi Kappo Tamura is terrific, and needs to be on the short list of places for the “best sushi [as well as ippin ryori and kappo] in Seattle.”

              2. j
                JayDK RE: MVNYC Dec 27, 2012 08:51 AM

                Any updates on this thread?

                1 Reply
                1. re: JayDK
                  OrigamiDuck RE: JayDK Jan 5, 2013 02:49 AM

                  Well, I haven't tried any other options here so I have no point of comparison for Seattle. But I have tried a fair amount of Sushi in my travels and I frequently dine at Kisaku.

                  I will say they are consistently among the best quality I've encountered. Sit at the sushi bar, ask the either of the Itamae what is fresh, and you can't go wrong.

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