In 2009, Mashiko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar chef Hajime Sato, made a responsible but risky decision: go fully sustainable. This move meant eliminating some of the more popular sushi dishes, such as eel and shrimp, because of their endangered status. "You have to explain to people," he says in a video introduction to the restaurant. "People aren't going to eat whale because the media talks about it. But nobody talks about eel." Today, Sato and his staff pride themselves on running one of the few truly sustainable sushi restaurants in Seattle—or anywhere. He can trace each of his menu items back to its source and identify how it was caught. Seafood such as salmon and tuna are raised in farms that are free of antibiotics and designed not to disturb surrounding ocean life or dolphins trying to nap. The fishermen Sato works with pay equal respect to adjacent species by keeping bycatch—fish caught accidently—to a minimum. The policies and the resulting flavors alike have won praise from outlets such as Eater Seattle, which named Mashiko one of its 38 Essential Seattle Restaurants in 2012.
When the staff at Umi Sake House say they want to make guests feel at home, they mean that quite literally. The entire layout mirrors a streamlined Japanese country home, which makes sense given the informal, izakaya-style dining experience the sake and sushi bar hopes to foster. Seated in a bright red modular chair or cozied up on a couch, diners taste 18 types of sashimi and nigiri and more than 50 varieties of roll. These delicacies are ballast for a huge list of hot and chilled sakes, available by the glass, bottle, or beaker borrowed from a Japanese scientist. Newcomers to this complex sip needn't fear: servers are happy to help guide guests' selections or delineate the difference between a nigori and a junmai sake. Summing up the Umi experience in naming it the city's Best Sushi in 2012, the Stranger concluded that "Umi Sake House is the whole package." That package can be sampled as late as 2 a.m., as CBS Seattle noted in placing Umi on its Best Late Night Eating in Seattle list.
'Ohana presents diners with an invitation to escape first by immersing them in tropical sights and sounds, and then by tempting them with a menu of Japanese-style sushi and Hawaiian entrees. In addition to rolling maki with scallops, peanut sauce, sea salt, and other ingredients, the chefs roast servings of Hawaiian-style pork and simmer big pots of curried stew. Beneath a thatched tiki bar, the bartenders pour sake and mix tropically themed cocktails with pass-o-guava juice and coconut rum.
These flavors spread out to add a distinctive tropical vibe to the entire dining room. A panorama of an island sunset dominates one of the walls and bamboo stalks surround each of the booths, which feature upholstery with leafy, flowery patterns. T-shirts and trinkets adorn almost every free surface, filling the space with everything from lava lamps to life preservers. DJs perform on most weekend evenings, and from time to time, the restaurant hosts live island music that occasionally makes the tribal masks hanging from the rafters break into songs that nobody can understand.
It might be hard for Japanese Gourmet Restaurant’s patrons to eat the food—the dishes are so artfully presented, it feels sinful to deconstruct them. Colorful swatches of roe cap each piece of a rainbow roll, and a seared scallop thatched with herbs balances atop a cylinder of rice. The chirashi bowl resembles a bouquet: pink petals of sashimi bloom beside a spray of cucumber slices, and a dollop of wasabi is shaped and scored to look like a leaf. The thoughtful presentation of the food is in spirit with a larger mission—as a member of the Pike Place community for nearly 20 years, the restaurant has developed a habit of giving back through charitable donations to local nonprofits such as Low Income Housing Institute and Kin On Health Care Center.
The candy-colored walls of Just Crepes evoke the saccharine flavors of its offerings, which include bubble tea, smoothies, and sweet and savory crepes. Thin, flaky crepes come topped with anything from strawberries and nutella to Thai satay chicken salad. Pair one from each column for a full meal or dive into a stack of chocolate pastries overflowing with optional ice cream and Oreo chunks. Patrons can also blind their taste buds to the next course with a variety of drinks including honeydew smoothies, jasmine tea, and toasty hot chocolate.
Nijo Sushi Bar & Grill fills the hot and cold plates of its lunch and dinner menus with an entire ecosystem's worth of healthy, high-quality ocean animals. Start off a meal with the goma spinach ($6), whose cooked greens are tossed and turned with gomae sesame dressing, or the yam fries, enhanced with wasabi oil, kosher salt, and wasabi aioli ($6), before slurping down a bowl of udon noodle soup ($12) served with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, tempura, or wild mushrooms. Office escapees, meanwhile, can take their minds off their cubicled existence with the orderly cubicles of the savory bento lunches ($12), all of which come with soup, salad, and the daily sushi roll—opt for kalbi beef, fried calamari, grilled salmon, and more. For dinner, famished guests can quiet their stomach's Godzilla roars with a variety of large plates, such as the miso-crusted chicken ($18) with wild-mushroom ragout, baby greens, and a caramelized soy reduction.