Friday, January 27, 2012


Nishino has the distinction of being my wife's favorite sushi restaurant in the Seattle area.  I think this owes to the fact that her first experience here was a very enjoyable omasake tasting menu that featured excellent, fresh ingredients.

Quality sushi restaurants must have two elements, in my opinion, a quality chef and quality ingredients.  I think that talented chefs in standard, savory restaurants, can turn relatively average food into great food.  For example, the snout to tail movement, fantastic chefs turn unloved parts of an animal into tasty morsels.  Also, a good recipe can go a long way, with a little spice.  You cannot tell me that my favorite Chinese, Middle Eastern, or Mexican places are using the best cuts of meat or getting stocked by Mr. Local Farmer who believes in Grass Fed (and notes the distinction between Grass Fed and Grass Finished) meat.  I feel that would be the equivalent to what is necessary for good sushi.

Now, a truly high quality ingredient will make the difference most of the time between a 4 and 5 in pretty much all circumstances, but I don't even think a sushi restaurant could get a 4 without high quality fresh ingredients.  And I don't think a Mexican place can get a 4 if they don't make their own tortillas.

In the end, how can a premium on quality ingredients be surprising with sushi?  You're eating something raw.

Our first omasake experience was a two hour food extravaganza, and featured thinly sliced hamache with jalapeño, spot prawn ceviche, nice nigiri fish, two maki rolls, and other delicacies.  That experience actually caused me to decide to start this blog.  This experience, a modified omasake (if you will), was just as good.  We didn't have a full two hours, we actually only had 45 minutes for dinner, and we sat at the bar, saw the same talented chef (who is not the head chef) as last time, and told him we'd like what was fresh.

The amberjack, scallop, and spanish mackerel (haji) came nigiri style.  They were fresh and delicious (so fresh, and so delicious we devoured them before taking a picture).  We ordered the tempura style anaheim chili with stuffed oysters and foie gras with seared tuna and mushroom off the kitchen menu.  The chilis were fried to a perfect golden brown and had the exact style of battered breading that I prefer (when it's not a panko style breading, I like my breading thin with minimal greasiness).  The contrast between the texture of the breading, slight texture of pepper, and soft oyster in the middle was a pleasing bite.  I would have liked a more spicy element somewhere in the center because these Anaheims were a little weak, but you never do know what you're going to get with them.

The foie dish was my wife's first bite of foie gras ever.  She said "Why have I not eaten this before?  Why don't places all over have this?"  It was very nice.  I would have preferred the temperature to be a little hotter overall (it was served room temp), but you have to be careful not to damage the foie.  Overall, I would give the dish a solid B+.

Finally, we received a salmon tartar order (a sushi/kitchen hybrid), arboretum roll, and Madison Park roll.  The salmon tartar was a hit.  The rice was made so crispy and delicious that I would go and buy it to take with me in a lunchbox if I could.  The tartar was good, salmon generally being fresh in Seattle, however I thought it again lacked a little capsicum.  I think some thinly sliced jalapeno worked in, along with thinly sliced lemon on the top (my wife's thought) would make this dish an A+.  As it was, again, I'd say a strong B+.

The arboretum and Madison Park rolls were good.  The arboretum roll looked a little scant, but tasted nice.  The Madison Park roll was served in a crepe, and was the chef's pick when we asked him to surprise us with our last dish.  Unfortunately, I think he was a little harried with the volume of people at the bar and in the restaurant that he was prepared sushi for, and while we both enjoyed the Madison Park roll - we were sad by the lack of creativity.  Without much in the way of daily fresh roll specials, this nice end to our meal was a period and not an exclamation point.

My wife then insisted on mochi balls, white chocolate with raspberry, which she loves.  They are a step up from the ice cream mochi balls you can find at Uwajimaya, but a little spendy for what you get.  That said, these mochi balls are her favorite and are tasty.

What is a solid B+ worth in stars, for another very enjoyable performance from the crew at Nishino (including the best sort of wait staff, attentive but not intrusive)?


3130 East Madison
Seattle, WA 98112
4 of 5

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