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Sep 13, 2011 11:56 AM

Sushi in Seattle vs Los Angeles

We have great sushi in Los Angeles. Is there any reason to eat sushi in Seattle? We're in town for three nights and we were thinking more Northwestern food, heavy on seafood, but not sure if sushi would be the same as in Los Angeles. Does Seattle source different fish? Thanks.

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  1. I have not had sushi in LA so hard for me to compare but we had line-caught albacore from the Oregon coast and wild sockeye at Nishino last week and it was pretty spectacular and NW. Maybe call them and pose the question.

    12 Replies
    1. re: bourbongal

      You’re absolutely right, albatruffles, you have great sushi in Los Angeles! In general, given the fact that you are in Seattle for only three nights, my answer would be not to bother with the sushi here. We have a handful of good sushi restaurants, but they don’t measure up to, or at least are certainly not better than, the best in Los Angeles. I lived in Los Angeles from 1993 to 2008, and spent a large amount of time and energy getting to know the best sushi chefs and sushi restaurants in L.A. As bourbongal points out, there are some local fish that you might not get in a Los Angeles sushi restaurant. For example, some of the uni in Seattle comes from Alaska, British Columbia, or Oregon, rather than the Santa Barbara or San Diego sourced uni that is usually served in Los Angeles. Local smelt should also still be available here in Seattle. But you can get Alaskan salmon and Pacific albacore as readily in Los Angeles as in Seattle. And, of course, much of the seafood for sushi and sashimi, both in Seattle and Los Angeles, comes from Japan. Given modern methods of air-shipping fresh fish, the number of local fish that are only available at their source has sharply declined.

      Do you like raw oysters? If so, the Pacific Northwest Oysters are among the best in the world. You can get a much larger selection of Pacific Northwest oysters in Seattle than you can get in Los Angeles. I personally like to sit at the oyster bar at Elliott’s Oyster House where I can discuss the oysters with the shucker behind the counter. Another good spot is The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard. They don’t have as large a selection as Elliott’s, but if you want something other than oysters, the food is better at Walrus & Carpenter. The problem with oysters at the moment is that we had a very late (and brief) stretch of warm, sunny weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and oysters spawn when the water warms up, which this year means that many are spawning now. Oysters are soft and milky when spawning and are not good to eat, so the normal supply of raw oysters is way down at the moment. For example, in the late fall and winter, Elliott’s will often have 30 or more different oysters to choose from. I just checked, and at the moment they have only 13 different oysters. Walrus & Carpenter has 7. But I’d still recommend sampling some of our oysters on the half shell if you like raw oysters. You didn’t say when you will be in Seattle, so if it is later on, you’ll have an even bigger selection of oysters, since the weather is now starting to cool off.

      1. re: Tom Armitage


        Thanks for the detailed and knowledgable feedback. We're in town late October, so hopefully the cooler weather brings more oysters. Walrus is on our agenda already and I'm pushing my girlfriend on Elloitt mainly for the vast selection of oysters. As for sushi, based on your comment and bourbongal's, it sounds like there is some differences, but maybe not enough to warrent a trip. Thanks again to both of you.

        1. re: albatruffles

          Agree with Tom. LA has SO many Japanese nationals compared to Seattle. Sushi in LA has to be much better than it is here (ditto NYC). If you're in town late October, and if the fall is damp, wild mushrooms might be a good choice here as compared to LA.

          1. re: PAO

            I agree with PAO about the local wild mushrooms, so thought I'd share this message from Chef Phillip Mihalski at Nell's, one of my favorite restaurants which has almost never disappointed me with the quality of its food: “Local wild mushrooms are my favorite product of the region. The fall crop includes chanterelles, porcini, matsutake, lobster and hedgehog mushrooms. All are great, but for intensity of flavor, I love the matsutakes most. We currently have chanterelles, matsutakes and lobster mushrooms on our menu. Chanterelle risotto is among the first courses and scallops with hearts of palm and matsutkes is featured on our tasting menu. We should get a variety of mushrooms through the middle of November.”

            1. re: Tom Armitage

              I took a look at Neil's menu. It sounds wonderful but perhaps a little more difficult to get to from downtwon than some of the others.

              1. re: bnevens

                You’re right. Nell’s is in the Green Lake area, which is about 5.3 miles north of downtown Seattle. If you don’t have a car, the round-trip cab fare would be about $28 or $29 without tip. You could take a bus, but that usually involves some wait time, not especially desirable at night after a nice meal. Some of the other places mentioned, like Walrus & Carpenter, The Corson Building, and Revel are also a cab ride or bus ride from downtown Seattle, assuming that’s where you are staying and won’t have a car. For example, Walrus & Carpenter in Ballard is 5.4 miles from downtown, so about the same distance as Nell’s. Between the two, however, in light of our exchanges, Walrus & Carpenter seems more up your alley than Nell’s, if you are choosing between cab rides.

          2. re: albatruffles

            Here are a couple more ideas on food that might be different from what you can get in Los Angeles. For seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients, you might want to try one of our locavore restaurants like The Corson Building or Sitka and Spruce. Also, although Los Angeles is rich in Korean restaurants, the highly creative Korean-and-Asian-inflected dishes at Revel (or its sister restaurant Joule) are quite unique and very delicious. If you get to Revel, don’t miss the corned-lamb salad.

          3. re: Tom Armitage

            Thank you, Tom. We are Seattle-bound next week and are in search of good oyster options. Walrus & Carpenter is already on my "must list" and Elliott's sounds good too. I wish we were going later when there are likely to be more varietes but appreciate your explanation as to why there are likely to be fewer options last week of September. We live in L.A. so would not seek out sushi in Seattle (other than what is probably better uni which is always my "dessert" at a sushi bar).

            1. re: bnevens

              Our summer was very late this year so if you are coming next week, the better restaurants may still be offering summer'ish fare. In addition to wild mushrooms, another thing that we likely have better here than you could get in LA is fresh berries--particularly wild huckleberries, but whether they'd be available by next week and in restaurants is iffy. Fresh heirloom apples are also coming out.

              1. re: PAO

                We are headed your way this Friday so I'll look for wild muchrooms and fresh berries. I need a month to go the all the restaurants on my list!

              2. re: bnevens

                A few days ago, I took a pass on some uni from Alaska that lacked the sweetness and briny flavor of a truly good uni. Like most shellfish products, the quality of any uni varies depending on time of harvest and local conditions, particulary kelp which is the staple diet of sea urchins. I mention this to point out that the Pacific Northwest uni isn't necessarily "better" than the uni from Santa Barbara and San Diego. In fact, most sushi chefs I know think that the uni from San Diego and Santa Barbara is the best in the world. Some of the best uni I ever had was processed in Los Angeles by Shigeru Matsushita (S.M. Uni). I had it at Kaito Sushi in Encinitas, California -- a wonderful sushiya.

                1. re: Tom Armitage

                  That's good to know. I suppose I was falling into "the grass is always greener" syndrome (appropriate for Seattle, right?). For the moment, I can't recall where I had my best uni but I can tell you that the most amazing sushi I've ever had was around 7:00am at Tsukiji Market. Meanwhile, I've learned more about oysters from you in the past few days than I ever had before. My son-in-law really dislikes oysters because he finds them to be slimy. After reading your posts, I think I know why.

          4. LA has noticeably superior Asian food when compared to Seattle - whether it's Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. so I'd skip that here. The only ones that Seattle is competitive against LA are probably south Asian cuisines, but even that's a big maybe - as in I just haven't found a good place down there for that yet.

            I'd follow the advice of the others here and go for the locally-sourced seafood.

            1. There is good sushi here you just have to know smaller local places. The best Sushi in seattle is actually a small nondescript place called Musashis in Wallingford. Huge, fresh, well cut and well priced. Be prepared to wait in line though since there are limmited tables and its hugely popular for people who know sushi.

              1400 N 45th St, Seattle, WA 98103

              1 Reply
              1. re: rdizzle1

                If you do a search for “sushi” on the Seattle Board, you’ll find lots of information and opinions, including “Looking for the best sushi in Seattle,” In response to rdizzle1, I didn’t mean to imply that there isn’t good sushi in Seattle. There’s very good sushi in Seattle. Shiro’s, Kisaku, Sushi Kappo Tamura, Nishino, Mashiko, Taka, and Miyabi, for example, all have their advocates. My becoming a regular at Kisaku began when I learned that it served seasonal specialties like shirako (cod milt), house-made karashi mentaiko (spicy marinated pollock or cod roe), firefly squid (hotaru ika), and other specialties that I had learned to love at the highly traditional non-Americanized sushiya in Los Angeles, where I was often the only, or at least one of a few, non-Japanese customers. These sorts of things are difficult to find at most sushiya in Seattle which cater to a largely non-Japanese clientele. My point was essentially the same as that made by PommeDeGuerre, that as good as is the best sushi in Seattle, the best sushi in Los Angeles is even better. Visitors to Seattle from places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are often looking for something different from what they can get in their home cities – which can be somewhat difficult because of the depth and breadth of the food available in those places.

              2. Agree with most of what has been said here. Though I love the cuisine of Seattle (I visit at least twice a year), and they have some good sushi there, if you are used to best of L.A., you will not be wowed. Don't feel badly though, plenty of other good things to eat there, and L.A. has the best sushi in mainland U.S., so it would take quite a feat to top it.