The name Sake Nomi translates to “sake only,” which is pretty accurate since this business sells, well, only sake. Here, owners Johnnie and Taiko pour portions of premium sakes and foster a community where fellow enthusiasts can share their knowledge of the beverage with guests looking to foray into the sake culture. Passionate for all aspects of the drink, they revel in discussions about brewing styles, grades, regions, and health benefits of sake. But don't make the rookie mistake of ordering your sake hot. Sake Nomi's sakes are always served chilled—which the couple maintains is the only real way to truly appreciate the drink's flavors and aromas and keep it from turning back into rice.
Ricenroll is many things, but the Bellevue restaurant can best be summed up in three words: quick, fresh, and healthy. Oh, and delicious. Here, chefs slice fish to create the inventive rolls that headline the menu, but sushi is only one part of the equation. Other popular dishes include hearty bowls filled with tofu, curried veggies, and teriyaki salmon. And no meal is complete without a bubble tea blended with real fruit and dotted with chewy tapioca balls.
Widely considered the oldest restaurant in Japantown, Maneki has served Seattle since 1904. But just as Maneki’s family-style food adheres to Japanese tradition, its long, storied history is inextricably linked with the Japanese–American experience. Its owners spent World War II in the internment camps, leaving the original location to fall into ruin. Nevertheless, after the war, the family picked right up where they left off, and since then Maneki has continued to uphold the proud heritage of Japan. A former dishwasher, Takeo Miki, even went on to become the nation’s 66th prime minister.
As the Seattle Times put it, an array of “country comfort foods” anchors Maneki’s menu. In addition to preparing traditional maki rolls and miso soups, the cooks steam salmon in foil pouches and broil black cod marinated in miso. Even the appetizers—such as the “soft and custardy” agedashi tofu—are created with comfort in mind, pairing with the many varieties of sake, beer, or liquor available at the bar.
In 2010, the James Beard Foundation designated Maneki one of America’s Classics, deeming it an exemplary ambassador of Japanese–American culture. Beyond the restaurant’s rich history and authentic cuisine, other elements are undeniably Japanese. Hot sake fills the square boxes known as masu that sit above the bar, and private tatami rooms allow patrons to eat in the traditional fashion of sitting on the floor.
The show is just arm’s length away from diners at Benihana, who watch as outfitted chefs slice and sear their dinner, teppanyaki-style, on a big flat grill in the center of each table. Beyond the visual feast, Benihana’s menu includes everything from steaks and seafood to chicken and unique sides like the Onion Volcano, Flying Shrimp, and the famous fried rice. Showman chefs talk up a storm, cracking jokes, flipping food through the air and showcasing plenty of skilled handiwork, all before serving the hot entrées straight from the grill. Fun business lunches or daytime excursions out with the family are also perfect at Benihana, which features the same visual spectacle during the day, as well as an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.
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.
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.