July 6, 2008

FOUND: Our go-to sushi joint

From time to time, people will ask us how the transition has been, moving from the Bay Area to Seattle. I have to say that overall, it's been a lot easier than I expected. Seattle is pretty similar to the Bay Area -- lots of educated folks, a pretty progressive political bent, and a relatively diverse community. Sure, the weather bites in comparison to the Bay Area (and it's actually much more gray than we had expected), but developing our community of friends here has come quickly and we pretty much feel at home... well, except...

1. It's absurdly difficult to find good Chinese food here.

2. It's also surprisingly difficult to find great sushi.

So far, for our Chinese fix, we usually end up at a joint like the Northwest Tofu House, Fu Man or Jack's, or we make the drive up to Richmond, B.C.

The sushi conundrum has been more difficult. As I've heard other California transplants complain, amazing fish should be so much more readily available here, yet the quality overall tends to be somewhat disappointing and the prices are astronomically high (compared to the Bay Area). And you'd think there would be an abundant selection of fantastic sushi places... and we've been looking for 16 months for an adequate surrogate for our favorite place back in Berkeley, Sushi Sho.

I tried Shiro on my first trip here. Solid quality, but nothing particularly notable. No spark.

Nishino: Great fish, but really high prices and too large of a restaurant to feel a personal connection (although Moro-san was really nice).

Saito: People love this place, but it just wasn't for me. I was incredibly disappointed by the omakase.

I Love Sushi: Not sure why people are so devoted to this place.

Sushiland: Yeah, getting desperate... although surprisingly decent quality fish for the money.

Chiso: Promising, but I didn't like the texture of their rice.

Mashiko: Probably my favorite of this bunch. Great fish, good servers, very well made sushi... but way too many options on their non-sushi menu and surprisingly expensive.

Then we went deep into the cultural abyss that is Southcenter Mall and tried Miyabi. If this restaurant was located anywhere else, I might be tempted to keep it all to myself. But I already know the fact the restaurant is in Tukwila will keep it from ever getting flooded by Seattle-ites. Miyabi is a gem tucked away in a bit of a strip mall (shared by Bai Tong, our go-to Thai restaurant in the area) across from Magnolia Hi-Fi.

What you'll find when you go inside is a small-ish, nicely designed restaurant with a sushi counter in the back manned by Masa, one of the more interesting and engaging sushi chefs we've interacted with... a total character. Superb fish, if you know what to look for and how to ask for it, and a laid back setting that can get a little festive when the sake and beer are flowing... not so much that it distracts from the food, but enough to keep the place from being too serious. Amaebi that's thrashing around before being swiftly dispatched and placed onto its throne of rice... deliciously unctuous albacore... superb saba (briefly torched to extract the rich oils and make the fish meltingly tender)... and a sushi chef who knows exactly what condition his ingredients are in. Tonight we had a magical nigiri with uni, ika and ikura combined... I've never seen such a combination before, but it was simply a perfect marriage of flavors to balance out the stronger taste of the uni during this time of year. A real treasure, Miyabi's the kind of place where you're already planning your next visit the moment you step out the door.

Hands down, our favorite sushi place so far in Seattle. Oh wait, I mean, Tukwila.

Miyabi Restaurant on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. have you tried Kisaku by Greenlake?

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  2. mmm...makes me want to move back to Seattle!

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  3. Excellent overview of Seattle Japanese food which has really declined over the last 20 years. Outside of sushi, here are some of my recommendations for Japanese

    If you like broiled Saba, I would recommend Fuji Sushi in the international district. They cook it perfectly and always serve it fresh from the grill.

    For innovative Japanese cuisine, Ginza in Bellevue offers a nice mix of traditional, sushi/sashimi, and inspired small plates. These creative dishes include a pumpkin fried rice served in the gourd and pork belly either tea-smoked or with miso scallions.

    I've also been unimpressed with the Black Miso Cod at most places (especially Shiro's) -- so aside from my Mom's place -- I think the best option is to go Mutual Fish where they have it pre-marinated and you just have to bring it home and broil the fish.

    What I really need now is some good recommendations for Ramen - no one seems to get the Dashi or the the texture of the noodles right. Any suggestions?

    -Kevin

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