Monday, June 20, 2011

Sushi Kappo Tamura

Sushi Kappo Tamura is part of a growing Seattle-based Kitamura empire. With Chiso, Showa Izakaya, and a tip of the hat from the James Beard Foundation under his belt, Taichi Kitamura has had no trouble finding forums to share his food. After eating at all of his establishments, his love for local, seasonal, and sustainable food becomes very clear.

The moment you walk in, you're greeted by a beautiful sushi bar. You won't find a single person without a smile at the bar. Sushi Kappo Tamura is not only about the food, but also about a personable and casual experience. Every sushi chef was having conversations with people seated at the bar. Every fifteen minutes or so, the chefs would say goodbye to their departing customers and would thank at least one person by name. You can tell that Sushi Kappo Tamura is very much about lasting, meaningful relationships with their customers.

Unlike Chiso or Showa, Sushi Kappo Tamura is the place to go for food straight from the hands of Chef Kitamura. That's him at the right end of the bar.

The space has high ceilings, comforting seating, calming music, and huge windows letting in the sunset. The plate ware is a refreshing departure from blindingly white plates and is just as beautiful as the food. From service to setting, Sushi Kappo Tamura feels like you've been invited to Taichi Kitamura's home. No pretention or high-brow service. Just good food and good company.

Sushi Kappo Tamura has a very focused and interesting menu, which makes the tasting menu not absolutely necessary. But if you have the chance, go for it. Like any good tasting menu, this one speaks to you.

This particular tasting menu started with organic mizuna, shimeji and grilled king oyster mushrooms, dressed with yuzu sauce and umadashi. The mizuna, or water greens, were light, crisp, and slightly peppery. Think of a less intense, but more full-bodied type of arugula. The sauce was bright from the intense yuzu, but tempered by the light and aromatic dashi broth. The mushrooms completed the dish with a beautiful richness and earthiness.

The second course was an Alaskan red snapper nitsuke with hari ginger and gobo. The fish was firm, yet moist. Every bite of the fish literally melted in my mouth. Nitsuke means that the fish was simmered in a broth that is usually soy sauce based. The gobo, or burdock, was slightly sweet and added some earthiness to the dish. The tightly packed handful of seasoned spinach was refreshing and light. The hari ginger was finely julienned, which allowed itself to season and unify the rest of the dish. Overall, the dish was a delicious balance of textures and sweet, salty, light, and earthy flavors.

Third was a duck breast shio-ni, yuzu gosyo scallion sauce with sauteed mustard greens. Each bite of this dish was insane. The duck breast was cooked with some soy sauce to a beautiful medium-rare and the yuzu and scallions brightened and intensified the duck's flavor. The mustard greens were simply sautéed, which added a nice kick to each bite. Duck typically depends on its own fat to let its flavor shine. These lean slices of duck did just the opposite with even better results.

The fourth course was the chef's sushi selection. At the top-left was a six-pack of cucumber, geoduck, and cuttlefish. The diagonal spread featured albacore, yellowtail, tuna, cuttlefish, and salmon. At the bottom-right was some salmon roe and geoduck. The sushi here is no joke. This is some of the best-quality sushi I've had in Seattle. Everything melted like oceanic honey in my mouth. I mean really, look at how beautiful each careful slice of fish looks. Usually, I take a stab at highlighting the best in a spread of sushi, but all of these were so good that nothing stood above the rest.

The meal ended with an Okinawan cane sugar crème brûlée. I love crème brûlée, and this one reinforced that obsession. Though a standard version of crème brûlée is always delicious, my favorite ones have always been at Japanese restaurants that take a departure from the norm (i.e., black sesame crème brûlée and green tea crème brûlée).

The rich sugar cane brûlée came out crisp, sweet, and reminiscent of the flavor of molasses. The layer of sugar cane was just thick enough to complement the nutty and surprisingly light custard. The custard tasted almond-based and was smooth, but still had a pleasantly heavy texture. Like many of the other dishes on the tasting menu, I can't help but describe this dish as earthy. I can't remember a single dessert that I've described as earthy, but this one was. So good.

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of everything I ate here. Sushi Kappo Tamura doesn't flaunt any bells or whistles. It just features delicious, fresh, healthy, and focused food. By the end of the tasting menu, I was perfectly satisfied. Chef Kitamura's food defines himself as a down-to-earth guy with an appreciation for where food comes from and serving healthy, yet satiating food.

Sushi Kappo Tamura
2968 Eastlake Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 547-0937

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