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Aug 2, 2010 05:03 PM

Sushi Kappo Tamura, Seattle

Has anyone been there since he opened in mid-July?
How is the ambience, compared to the old Kappo? Did you get quality time/conversations with Taichi san?
If I loved the old Kappo, whill I like the new Kappo?

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  1. Just went last week. Put myself in Taichi-san's hands at the bar, worked out swimmingly. Great choices, presentation, quality. Especally great rice! Cost was reasonable - under $150 for two with drinks.

    Can't compare to the old location (never went) but I will be back.

    11 Replies
    1. re: terrier

      I am assuming you did the Omakase? Is the Omakase only available at the bar?
      Thanks for your patience. I am definitely planning on going to the new Kappo, soon. I'm just trying to get a feel for what it is like now....Kappo and Chiso all in one space.

      3520 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

      1. re: ritabwh

        I ordered omakase, not the tasting menu. Basically just asked to be served what was good at the time and Taichi-san happily obliged. We were well taken care of, liked the experience at the bar and would probably try to sit there in the future. No idea if you could order omakase from a table but surely you wouldn't get the same banter or have your reaction to each course informing the next one.

        1. re: terrier

          My wife and I went to S.K.T. a couple of weeks ago. We ate at the sushi bar and were served by Taichi-san. For much of the time we were his only customers, and so we spent a lot of time talking with him, which we very much enjoyed. We ordered omakase, following an introductory discussion about the length and breadth of our experience eating sushi and telling him that absolutely nothing was off limits (using nattō, shirako, kani miso, and shiokara as examples). We didn’t discuss price or set a limit on cost which, in hindsight, was perhaps a mistake. The lineup, with the cooked dishes preceding the sushi, included a geoduck (siphon) salad with beachwood mushrooms and mizuna mustard greens, grilled smelt and moi collar, Kumamoto oysters, and sautéed geoduck (mantle) with mushrooms, mustard greens, and gobo. Although one of the geoduck dishes appeared to have been made from the siphon and the other from the mantle, both preparations were quite similar with their inclusion of mustard greens and mushrooms, and I thought it odd that Taichi-san included the second geoduck dish. Even with that bit of disconcerting oddness, however, the cooked dishes were uniformly extraordinary. The sushi was also very good, and included tuna belly that was somewhere in between chutoro and otoro in fattiness, Yukon River king salmon, fatty albacore belly, seared otoro, and anago marinated in sake and sea salt – perhaps a little heavy overall on fatty fishes. The quality and preparation of the sushi, although excellent, wasn’t better than I’ve had at Kisaku. We had two small bottles of sake, one designed to complement the cooked items (Konteki Junmai Daiginjo) and another designed to complement the sushi (Mizubasho Junmai Ginjo). When we got the tab, we had been charged $100 each for the omakase. Compared with the $55 “tasting menu,” which only includes three cooked dishes (the geoduck with mushrooms and mustard greens, chicken, and salmon) perhaps the $100 cost isn’t unreasonable. I’m curious, however, how Terrier “put himself in Taichi-san’s hands” and came out of there with a cost, with drinks, under $150 for two. Did you set a limit of the price of the omakase, Terrier? For my wife and me, with the sake, tax, and tip, our total cost was well north of $300 for two. Was the food wonderful? Yes. Was it worth more than $150 per person? Maybe, but I can’t bring myself to give an unqualified “yes.” I think it will be quite awhile before I’m going to be able to convince my wife to return to S.K.T. because of the cost, although for the occasional splurge, I’d happily return, not so much for the sushi, but for the wonderful cooked ippins.

          1. re: Tom Armitage

            Hmm, no idea why it was cheaper for us. I wouldn't have turned down your meal, but it wasn't the same experience as I got. Maybe I wasn't as emphatic when ordering? Maybe it was the fact that I ordered beer instead of sake? Maybe they just hadn't settled in yet after opening and applied dynamic pricing to their omakase? I didn't give a cost limit when I ordered, but we only ended up with two cooked dishes (memory failing as to what exactly we had - not geoduck though) and several geta of outstanding nigirizushi, until we signaled that we were done.

            Thanks for the tip, though; when we go back I will definitely specify an upper bound on price.

            1. re: terrier

              I think the fact that we had 5 cooked dishes, versus your two, explains a lot of the price difference. (In the list included in my previous post, I left out an extraordinarily wonderful broiled fish head, for those that are counting.) Thanks for the response, Terrier.

              1. re: Tom Armitage

                i would agree with Tom. part of the allure and price of Taichi's former Kappo was the atmosphere of a private chef cooking in front of you. But in the setting of Tamura, I wouldn't opt for the omakase meal as the value isnt the same. I love his cooking and food, so I'd probably would go back to order my own meal or for casual sushi.

                1. re: shaolinLFE

                  right. at the old Kappo, you had no choice. the menu was set, and it cost $100.
                  sushi was only a small part of the set menu. if you wanted to pick and choose, you would have had to go downstairs to Chiso.
                  we finally made it to the new Tamura Kappo last week.
                  the sushi bar seats 13.
                  even though Tamura Kappo has an ala carte menu, we opted for the omakase. i didn't want to be dithering over the choices. i trust Taichi san to choose the best of the menu and maybe off the menu.
                  we did as we always did at the old location: go for the earliest seating. that way, we got Taichi san all to ourselves for over an hour.
                  we were worried that we would be disappointed with the new setting. as shaolin said above, it is not as intimate, but we were not disappointed.
                  i did see a fish head down the sushi bar, that was not included in our omakase dinner, so i think another visit will be necessary.
                  all in all, sitting at the sushi bar was acceptable. the restaurant was a bit loud for me.

                  3520 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

                  1. re: ritabwh

                    Tried SKT last night, and it is interesting to see how our interactions and experience differed from others. We sat at the bar and asked Taichi what was good that night. He listed off maybe 6-8 fishes that were included in the "sushi bar specials" menu for the day, including scallops, sockeye, sea bream, porgy, wild yellowtail, and also recommended a thin soup made with matsutakes and black cod (can't recall japanese name) that is meant to empahsize the aroma of the fungi, as he explained it. We told him that we'd like the soup and "sushi and sashimi, including [the fish he listed], san juan island green uni, and 'sweet lips' ", and also one roll. He asked "you want sushi and sashimi?" and we said to "use your judgment" as to which fish would be better for each--but maybe we weren't entirely clear on this point. He served sashimi portions of five fish, 2 of which had two pieces and 3 with four pieces. Later came 6 types of nigiri sushi, 4 of which were repeats of the sashimi fish that were seared and/or seasoned, and then two additional fish he chose--yukon king, some excellent "small fish" with a suprisingly firm texture. I did not mind at all his improvisation on these two, though I would have preferred not to repeat some of the others. We finished with the local uni nigiri as dessert.

                    The fish quality was superb (with the exception of the yellowtail), and the soup--server in a kettle with a squeeze of key lime and tiny bowls, was etherally subtle. The total amount of food was astutely estimated and just right for us that night. Interaction with Taichi was easier than with Shiro, and his supporting staff was very attentive.

                    The meal above plus one beer, one cocktail and small carafe of sake came to just over $150 before tax/tip. This paces it in the "splurge/occasion" category for us, but all in all, I belive, that is where it belongs. Contemplating the tab, my wife and I reflected on this, and how unlikley it would be that we could ever acquire 8-12 different kinds of fish and even attempt to compose a meal of this quality. On the other hand, when desiring sushi, is a more rushed but still competent assembly of a limited array of fish for half the price (e.g. Musashi or Aoki) really what one wants? For me, not usually.

                    Tom's point is fair--we have certainly eaten comparable meals--those on the level of SKT and not Musashi/Aoki--at Kisaku and Shiro's for about $30 less, give or take, but SKT is not unreasonable given the overall experience: I enjoy the ambience at SKT.

                    Final ecological note: While I applaud SKT for identifying the fish that are sustainable by Monterrey standards, it is a shame they only made up a fraction of the fresh list when I visited (the sample menu online appears to have more).

                    2401 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA

                    1400 N 45th St, Seattle, WA 98103

                    1. re: equinoise

                      Great report, equinoise. My wife and I had around five cooked dishes, compared with your one hot dish, the matsutake-black cod soup – which, by the way, sounds elegant and delicious. In addition to the cooked dishes, my wife and I were served only sushi, no sashimi (although we didn’t say anything that would have excluded sashimi). The amount of sushi was substantial, however, with around 7 or 8 pieces of sushi each, including some expensive trane, like otoro. Comparing this with the 14 pieces each of combined sashimi and sushi that you were served, our higher price point seems related primarily to the greater number of cooked dishes we were served.

                      Other sushi-ya also prepare some cooked dishes. At Kisaku, for example, we have had geoduck mantle sautéed with mushrooms and greens; kisu, anago, and kakiage tempura; and various types of fish collars, included within a price point that varies between around $120 to $140 per person (with beer and/or sake). So, in our case, the $200 per person tab at SKT (without beer or sake) was substantially more than a $30 premium. I don’t want to give the impression, however, that I left SKT thinking that I hadn’t received reasonable value. The cooked dishes at SKT are more elaborate and elegant than those served at Kisaku and were, for me, the high point of the meal. And when I compare SKT with other restaurants in the “splurge/special occasion” price range (e.g., Café Juanita), I think SKT measures up just fine.

                      Taichi-san is somewhat inconsistent on the subject of sustainable seafood. I asked if he served ankimo, and he said no because of the endangered status of monkfish (which launched us into an enjoyable conversation about alternative fish livers). But he served toro without a blink. I forgot to ask if he was using farmed bluefin tuna, but I suspect that he wasn’t. He served local Washington albacore belly as a separate trane.

                      1. re: Tom Armitage

                        Oops. To correct a typo in the post above, the proper term for toppings on nigiri-zushi is "tane," not trane.

                        1. re: Tom Armitage

                          Upon reflection after reading your post, my estimation of a $30 premium at SKT as compared to similar meals at Kisaku seems low. More like $40-50. Still, my overall impressions and conclusions remain unchanged. (Plus, as of today, I can just walk in and be seated at SKT instead of waiting for an hour at Kisaku, which is worth something).

      2. I went last week, too. Three of us sat at a table, two ordered the sashimi combo, one ordered the sushi combo. Nothing special. Service was attentive, but that was likely because one of us was the former teacher of the waitperson.

        1. Never made it out to the Freemont location, but had a great meal at Tamura last week. Had the chirashi, tempura spotted prawns and (oyster?) mushrooms, geoduck, sashimi, and ohter things. Everything was great, and the little garnishes, such as macha sea salt, really put the dishes over the edge for me.

          1. I went to the soft opening and was dismayed that our table of 4 were sat at a table after we reserved the bar with Taichi. But i chalk that one up to it being a soft opening. They did serve the omakase meal at the tables and the food was great. Authentic and modern Japanese dishes combined with local ingredients will never grow old with me.

            However something was missing from the old Kappo. The new setting lets in alot more natural light (especially sunsets in July) which makes a brighter and more lively setting. Where at the old Kappo you felt you were an insider and a VIP for sitting at a 9 person bar with Taichi. At the new Tamura, the casualty is the charm and intimacy of the old Kappo. Especially sitting at the table away from Taichi and the chef preparing the meal for you which I loved at Kappo (dinner and a show!).

            I do plan on going back, but if I'm going to spend the $$ for the omakase meal, i'd insist at sitting at the bar.

            I'd recommend Tamura to anybody, as the food is the same as Kappo and Taichi is back, but don't expect it to be Kappo.

            p.s. rumor has it that Taichi has plans for the old Kappo space... Waiter said he may reopen it in the future, Nancy Leson from the Seattle times said a possible izakaya?

            2 Replies
            1. re: shaolinLFE

              I too never made it to the Fremont location, but had dinner there last night and definitely recommend checking it out. Had the Fukiyose Chirashi, and the sashimi was fresh and delicious. The miso soup that came with the Chirashi was quite interesting with the addition of Japanese eggplant and bok choy, something I hadn't expected. The service was friendly and attentive, and the space itself is simple, modern and gorgeous. I loved the massive wood doors in particular. Cost was also very reasonable. Parking was easy since we were there early, but I can imagine it getting a bit tough later on in the evening. And they take reservations which is always a plus in my book.

              1. re: hc_

                Interestingly, I was also there last night, but I have to go in the other direction. We sat at the sushi bar and just asked for a selection of good sushi. In my first bite I bit into a rock--I know this could happen anywhere, so I don't want to dwell on it. My biggest issue was the rice. I found it far too dry for the nigiri--some the rice broke in half before I could get it into my mouth. The fish itself was good, though I thought the shrimp head that was fried was poorly done and the best bites of fish were definitely the ones Taichi made for us--the other people there did a far less good job. Overall, I might consider going back if I could be sure to reserve right in front of Taichi. He did do a good job of making sure that he saw to everyone at the bar, but considering the price we paid for the nigiri, I would have wanted all of the pieces were as good as the ones he made us--which was about three of the 13 pieces.

            2. Four of us went recently. I thought that the chef used excellent quality ingredients with good technique, but I walked away disappointed because the food was SO BLAND! The salmon skin in the salmon skin sushi was lost because of the flavors of other ingredients. I was hoping for that rich flavor of toasted salmon skin, but it was totally absent. The ume/shiso roll, however, was excellent. The black cod could have been marinated longer. Flavor hinted at being good, but it should have permeated the fish, in my opinion. The duck was very tasty, but half of it was too raw for my taste. I did enjoy my butter sauced mochi with azuki beans.

              I'm willing to try the place once more, but my initial impression is that I'd be better off, both food-wise and wallet-wise at Tsukushinbo. I'm giving this 3 stars, but really, it should be two and a half.

              515 S Main St, Seattle, WA 98104

              1 Reply
              1. re: PAO

                It’s always interesting (I mean that in a positive way) to see how different the reactions can be to the same food. I didn’t find any of the dishes I had at Sushi Kappo Tamura “bland.” Subtle, yes. But not bland. You might be interested in a thread on Chowhound’s General Topics Board captioned “Punched-Up” Food and Wine, In general, does your preference for food tilt toward bold, intense, and/or spicy flavors?