Omakase Life (4/25/07)

Recently my roommate and I, sushi afficionado extraordinaires, discovered the magic word ‘Omakase’. Essentially it means that you would like the chef to give you whatever is best that day. Having just enjoyed a delicious and unique meal at Shun, near U. Village (full omakase reviews after the break), I got to thinking about using the term omakase in other fields. When we sit down at the sushi bar and say ‘omakase’ the chef relishes his (or her?) chance to show off just how well they can do while at the same time you get to enjoy the fruit of his labor. It isn’t that the sushi is not always amazing (it is) or that he doesn’t normally try (he clearly does), its just that somewhere in there, he has the extra trick up his sleeve, just waiting to be asked for. So I got to thinking about the use of this word in the rest of the world: What if I sat down in front of Ichiro and said that word. Would fancy bat work and trick dance steps down the baselines come out? Would the M’s start winning? Or say I said it to Mayor Nickels. Could we solve the tunnel/viaduct problem if we just asked someone to omakase it?
The intro to omakase came at Umi Sake House in Belltown. They have it priced and on the menu, so you can order it to your table. You also have the option of sushi or sashimi. Both times I ordered the $25 Sashimi plate and it came out different each time, filled with variety, each piece perfectly cut and introduced me to stuff I would never have ordered. The highlight included the three different types salmon on one of them and the king crab on the other. This is a great place to start your omakase journey.

The second place we tried is our local neighborhood joint that we love dearly. Shun (pronounced shoon), is just north of U Village. I was inclined to dislike it, as I was a huge fan of Thai Dusit, the thai restaurant it replaced, but it is hard to dislike a cheap, terrific sushi restaurant within 2 miles of your house. So we sat at the sushi bar and nervously eeked out the magic word. The chef grinned, asked us if there was anything we didn’t eat (hell no!) and got started. A seaweed and king crab salad started us off, followed by a variety of nigiri, monkfish liver in ponzu sauce, deep fried mackerel bones, and more nigiri. Everything was delicious and new to us. Those items that were not new to us had something different about them. The unagi, not something I normally like, melted off our tongues like butter. This was truly an enlightening sushi experience. As the bill came, we braced for the worst. And boy were we shocked when we saw the price–Just $30 each for this feast of chef specialities.

Drunk on our amazing omakase eating skills, we decided to go straight for the top: Shiro’s. I had heard from multiple sources that this was the place to get the best sushi in town. We got there at 5:30, right when it opened to be assured a spot at the sushi bar. We sat down, told the chef in front of us our order and tittered excitedly. The first piece of nigiri dropped in front of us. We chewed thoughtfully. It was, well, fishy. But we said nothing. Piece after undistinguished piece of nigiri dropped in front of us, and each one was fishy, not fresh and exciting, but like he was rushing us away. There was only one non-nigiri item, and that was the tuna handroll. Good, but not great. At the end, the other chef was making an amazing looking poke, and after looking longingly, he offered us a sample. Even that looked better than it tasted. There was a highlight at Shiro’s though, which was that we watched them kill our shrimp and lay them out on our nigiri. And I of course, love the deep fried shrimp head. My roommate let me eat hers. This time we were ready for the bill. Confident in our omakase experience, we were sure we would pay for what we got, which wasn’t worth a whole lot. Shortly, however, we were jarred back to reality, as the cost was $113 for the two of us. Heads hung in shame, we left, broke and unsatisfied.

I hope this helps everyone else discovery the wonderful world of omakase that this fine city has to offer. And maybe even get the word Omakase into our daily language.

Shiro’s on Superpages.com
Umi on Superpages.com

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