Tag Archives: japanese

Restaurant Review: Ryoko’s

A few blocks from Union Square, tucked away on Taylor Street (between Sutter and Post) you’ll find Ryoko’s. This late night, hole-in-the-wall sushi joint has been turning out quality sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese fare for the past 23 years.

With its nondescript entrance, Ryoko’s can be pretty easy to miss—that is, unless you go during peak hours and see the line of people out the door. The restaurant is actually located below street level, so once you step inside you descend a set of stairs to reach the dining area. The atmosphere inside is warm and inviting. Cave-like, even. It’s the type of place where you think “Cool, I had no idea this place was here.” Lighting is dim, ceilings are low, and the walls are painted a deep cobalt blue. The brightly-lit sushi bar takes up half the space, while small tables set close together take up the rest. There’s a baby grand piano squeezed in amidst everything too, though I have yet to see anyone play it.  Overall it’s cozy and lively.

Everyone that arrives is greeted by the staff with a boisterous “IRRASSHIMASE!” which means “welcome” in Japanese. It’s in all caps because they literally shout it at you. With Ryoko’s being the popular place that it is, people are always walking in so you hear a constant sing-song of “IRRASHIMASE!” throughout the night. It’s not too noticeable though, given the high decibel degree. If anything, it just adds to the friendly and jovial vibe of the place.

On to the food.  The food here is simple, not flashy.  It’s best to order from the daily specials board above the bar. That’s where you’ll find the freshest stuff. If they have it, I recommend the Hamachi Toro (toro being the fattiest part of the fish). It’s flown in from Japan so it’s not too cheap—usually $9 for two pieces—but my god, the flavor and buttery texture…perfection!

Hamachi Toro (and some other fish I can’t remember)

The sushi rolls are decent. They’re not fancy, but they’re executed nicely and the fish is always fresh. However, the portion sizes are a bit small in comparison to other places of the same caliber quality and price range. [SIDE NOTE: for fancy sushi at reasonable prices, check out Sushi Bistro in the Richmond.] Specialty rolls range from $7-$14.50 and usually only comprise of five pieces (sometimes six, if it’s a smaller roll). Continue reading

Restaurant Review: FLO

A few things come to mind when one thinks of Seattle. Some might think of the Space Needle, the Seahawks and gloomy weather, while others might envision coffee establishments and the television antics of a certain Dr. Frasier Crane. I, on the other hand, in addition to the wonderful friends I have there, will always think of some of the greatest culinary experiences I’ve ever had–namely, my dinners at the Bellevue-based Japanese restaurant FLO.

Aside from my friends’ vocal adoration of the restaurant, I must admit that my expectations for FLO when I first dined there in 2006 were not set very high. After all, I was coming up from San Francisco where an entire section of the city is devoted entirely to Japanese food and culture. I had no idea that a small restaurant tucked neatly away in a small (now big) suburb outside of Seattle could come even close to my wonderful experiences with Japanese cuisine here in the Bay Area. However, as I took my first bite of FLO’s fresh and tangy hamachi carpaccio (runs about $13 and is well worth it), I realized that I was sadly mistaken.

The culinary delights did not end there–they were only just beginning. Of course, in addition to the customary miso soup and salad, my dear friends (a husband and wife who swear by the restaurant and eat there religiously) went on to select some of the most divine sushi and nigiri I had ever tasted. The menu’s prices (keep in mind that the menu does change) were more than fair when compared with the average price of sushi in the Seattle and San Francisco areas. You’re unlikely to spend more than $10 for a generous helping of non-seasonal sushi or nigiri, and none of the warm entrees exceeded the $20 mark.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert taster of Japanese sushi, but I can say that I’ve eaten at plenty of restaurants that serve it. Skeptics (such as I was) who are sadly led to believe that sushi doesn’t vary too much from one decent Japanese restaurant to the next, obviously haven’t tasted the exquisite freshness and preparation that has since become a hallmark of FLO’s sushi and nigiri offerings. For example, the sushi chef’s method of preparing toro (fatty tuna; it is seasonal and can be expensive), which is delicious pretty much wherever you go, brought the dish to a whole new level of succulence that I’m finding difficult to describe with words. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.

After several more toothsome selections from FLO’s extensive raw menu, of which a lightly-seared salmon nigiri named after my friend Laura (you won’t find it on the menu, unfortunately) was my favorite, the main course was served. Continue reading