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.
When to Go
What to Drink: Setsuna serves a variety of beer, wine, and liquor imported directly from Japan to help make the experience as authentic as possible. Sample some sweet plum wine, grab a bottle of Sapporo lager, or sip on some 12-year Hakushu whiskey.
Izakaya: a Japanese style of dining where dishes are ordered and brought to the table in a consistent, casual fashion designed to encourage sharing.
Hamachi: young yellowtail, popular in sushi.
If You Can't Make It, Try This: I Love Bento (7500 35th Avenue NE) serves up Japanese cuisine such as chicken teriyaki and tuna rolls in an unpretentious setting.
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.
Dashi: a fish stock or broth used in Japanese cuisine that’s typically made with dried kelp and bonito flakes.
Karaage: a Japanese technique in which chicken (or meat or fish) is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger, coated in flour or starch, then deep-fried.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Catch an indie flick at Grand Illusion Cinema (1405 NE 50th Street).
After: Walk off your meal and learn about dinosaurs at the same time with a visit to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (17th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street).
Ramen is an important dish in Japan—the country boasts more than 40,000 ramen shops. And each region boasts its own unique style of the soupy noodles, which makes for more than two dozen regional varieties. The owners of Samurai Noodle took their cue from their Japanese counterparts, packing their menu with 12 types of ramen, including the less soupy dipping ramen. A range of broth options—including miso chicken, chili green onion, and tomato—cradle helpings of noodles, be they thick egg noodles or thin wheat noodles. The chefs take customization one step further, letting customers specify their preferred noodle firmness. Additional toppings for the soup creations include chili sauce, black mushrooms, and eggs.
A Standout in Seattle's Japanese Dining Scene
Amid Seattle's sea of Japanese restaurants, Miyabi 45th stands out. That's because, rather than specialize in sushi, Miyabi 45th's menu spotlights one of Japan's most overlooked staple foods: the soba noodle.
There are multiple ways to enjoy these buckwheat-based noodles, which chefs make in-house from Washington-grown grains: they can be served cool, with a side of dipping sauce, or piping-hot in savory broth. Chefs also concoct a variety of creative dishes to pair them with; think foie gras "tofu," miso-marinated brie, and Japanese whiskey-glazed chicken wings. Sommelier-chosen sakes and craft cocktails further enhance the dining experience.
Elevating Soba to New Heights
Chef Mutsuko Soma, the Japanese-born chef behind Miyabi 45th, studied a wide variety of cuisines at the Art Institute of Seattle?s culinary program. But no matter how many new flavors she tried, she remained captivated with simple soba.
After stints at such lauded restaurants such as Harvest Vine and Chez Shea, she returned to Japan to learn the art of soba-noodle preparation, mastering traditional hand-forming and cutting techniques. Now that she's back in Seattle, area diners can enjoy the fruits of her studies at Miyabi 45th, where she and her chefs elevate this traditional dish with modern add-ons such as sous-vide egg and oysters.