When a guest walks into Blue C Sushi, a staff member greets them with a cheerful “Irasshaimase!”—a traditional Japanese salutation that translates literally as “welcome to our store.” That warm welcome isn't the only surprise in store for guests though: a parade of vibrantly colored plates inspired by modern Tokyo subway lines moves past on a modern conveyer belt, dazzling eyes with their delicious and equally colorful contents. Dishes such as cucumber and seaweed salads, or the namesake Blue C sushi roll (with spicy crab, scallions, sliced tuna, tobiko, and shiso) await to be selected directly from the display, and each plate's color corresponds directly to the dish's price and the mood of the chef who prepared it. In this way, guests can build a completely custom meal around any budget, starting with raw or cooked sushi, all the way down to desserts, such as mochi. Of course, the friendly staff members are always on hand to help answer questions about each dish as it ambles past, and to refresh dishes regularly.
The Japanese have plenty of words for different styles of dining, from omakase (chef’s selection) to izakaya (a Japanese pub with great food). But kappo might not be on the tip of many tongues. Legendarily rooted in Osaka starting in the 19th century, kappo dining puts the chef on display in the dining room, where diners can watch their meals form before their very eyes. Even better, there are no imaginary lines here between cook and customer: the other distinctive part of kappo are the many close interactions between the diners and chef, making it a learning experience for both parties.
You could say it’s the Japanese way, but here, more than anything it’s the Tamura way: creating a menu based on whatever fresh, local food chefs can obtain that day. With produce plucked from the rooftop garden or shrimp caught in Skagit Bay, chefs create a brand-spankin’-new menu every day. That means you may not have much control over what’s offered, but with the chefs’ degree of skill in the kitchen, that essentially doesn’t matter.
When Seattle Magazine named Sushi Kappo Tamura the Best New Restaurant in 2011, it lauded it’s sushi as the best in Seattle. That might seem like a big enough accomplishment in itself, but it’s not the only trophy in this restaurant’s case. Seattle Magazine readers’ choice voters agreed with the critics, deeming it Best Sushi in 2014. Travel + Leisure called it one of the Best Sushi Restaurants in the States. Maybe it’s the freshness of every ingredient or Kyoto-born chef Taichi Kitamura’s constant strive for perfection, but Sushi Kappo Tamura keeps racking up accolades that leave the rest of the pack lagging behind.
On the sign that denotes the entrance to Rain Modern Japanese Cuisine, twisting neon lights outline a blue fish with a cartoonish grin and an orange umbrella. This colorful introduction extends inside to the dining room, where Rainbow rolls, golden tamago nigiri, and ruby-red salmon roe add pigment to each stark white plate. Sushi dominates the menu, which boasts nigiri by the piece as well as maki wrapped in soy-paper or bundled with tempura and glazed with sauces such as avocado salsa and housemade teriyaki. Chef Takashi Ogasawara and his staff's other handcrafted creations include the namesake Rain roll—shrimp tempura capped with creamy scallops—and the Sasquatch, a meaty morsel of shrimp, tobiko, and tuna nestled in seared salmon. In addition to sushi, diners can sample beef-short-rib appetizers or play cat's cradle with hungry spirit animals via udon and yakisoba noodle dishes.
Diners at Shilla Restaurant have a choice: become the masters of their own culinary fate or let the chefs do all the work. At tables inset with Korean barbecue, they can flip slices of bulgogi beef, calamari, pork belly until they're perfectly seared. At the sushi bar, chefs roll more than 30 varieties of maki, while in the kitchen others are busy turning out an expansive menu of steamy Korean cuisine such as bibimbap.
Guests cook or slurp up kimchi in a sleek, monochromatic dining room. Beneath paper lampshades, they can counteract bites of spicy Korean entrees by drinking sips of sake.
At Moshi Moshi Sushi, a large sakura tree hangs over the dining room, its branches of white LED lights shining like cherry blossoms amid the soft glow of paper lanterns. As patrons bathe in this light reminiscent of a Japanese garden, sushi chefs transform fresh fish—flown in regularly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market—into maki rolls and sashimi. Meanwhile, bartenders mix several specialty cocktails—such as the Death Poem, a blend of Guatemalan rum, rye whiskey, grapefruit, and cinnamon—to pay homage to Japan’s natural mountain streams of hot sake.
The chefs at Sumo Sushi create specialty sushi rolls and teriyaki meals for lunch and dinner. They serve guests fresh nigiri and sashimi such as salmon, eel, and squid. Beer, sake, and wine can help wash down any number of sushi rolls, such as the Hawaii, with bluefin tuna over a California roll, or shrimp tempura with crabmeat and avocado.