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.
Though billed as a bakery, Borracchini’s has expanded its offerings to include much more than just colorfully frosted cakes and cookies throughout its 91-year history. At the full deli counter, glass cases brim with mortadella, prosciutto, and provolone, which the staff assembles into sandwiches and pizzas. Shoppers can create their own Italian feasts at home after perusing a small grocery selection of olive oils, wine, pastas, and sauces. Boracchini’s bread menu also bears a Mediterranean accent, exhibited in loaves such as the rosemary parmesan toscano. But none of this distracts the bakers from making their own sweets from scratch. Each morning at dawn, they craft nearly 20 kinds of donuts and breakfast pastries, as well as pies that range from tangy lemon meringue to savory mincemeat.
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.
Aloha Ramen owners Lorenzo and Reiko Rangel were inspired to open their restaurant after moving to Seattle from Honolulu and noting the lack of ramen-centric eateries, according to an article by The Seattle Times. In lieu of maintaining a lengthy menu of dishes, the restaurant's cooks put nearly all their attention into the traditional noodle dish, which features fresh broth, roasted meats, and garnishes such as bamboo shoots. And similar to the ramen stands of Japan, the tables inside Aloha Ramen bear all the tools and ingredients needed to enjoy a meal, such as ramen pepper and bundles of chopsticks, which are necessary both for eating noodles and for building a protective fort around your pot stickers
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.
Dragonfish's extensive dinner menu transports Near Northwest diners to the Far East without the tiresome clicking of ruby-red heels. Preheat your appetite with Lime Rickey shrimp with cashews in a house-made lemongrass-vodka sauce ($8); dreamy tofu pillows with dipping sauces of spicy peanut, sweet-hot mustard, and caramel ginger ($8); or the caramel-ginger chicken, fried chicken sauced in a caramel-ginger concoction with peppers, scallions, and peanuts ($8). Stomachs sashay to the melodies of Dragonfish's sushi; the Dante's Inferno roll takes eating epic poets through nine levels of delicious hell, marked by tempura shrimp, red onion, kaiware, habanero tobiko, eel sauce, and Thai chili sauce ($12). House specialties include the grilled miso beef rib eye, accompanied in its digestive duties by tempura yams and onions ($19), and the Thai green curry, available with chicken ($13) or prawns ($16). Noodle dishes and vegetable plates are also available.