Sometimes I get so obsessed about comparing restaurants that I do crazy things.
Like creating a sushi (financial) spreadsheet.
I did this in comparing the three restaurants that reside in my top tier of favorites in the Seattle area: Kisaku, Shiro’s, and now Sushi Kappo Tamura, in Eastlake. The third is Taichi Kitamura’s new place, following his relocation from Fremont. (The old Kappo space has become Kitamura’s izakaya, called Showa.)
Tamura hits the sweet spot for me in terms of atmosphere. It’s a little more upscale than Kisaku, which is a great neighborhood restaurant, but it’s warmer than Shiro’s, which can feel more formal. It’s a cross between a casual experience and an, “Oh, I’ve gone out to dinner somewhere nice” experience. This especially comes through at the counter—the only place I like to sit at a sushi restaurant—where Kitamura holds court.
Like Ryuichi Nakano at Kisaku, Kitamura is a pleasant guy. He laughs easily, and is a genuine talker as time allows. And a fellow fan of good food.
One thing I especially like about Tamura is its fine selection of ippin dishes. While we were there primarily for some sushi (this was the second part of our two-part anniversary dinner), I was tempted by many of the small plates. We ordered:
Full Circle Farms mustard greens and Washington albacore tuna with almond wasabi sauce
A gift from the house: daikon and carrot salad with scallop and dried persimmon—an Oshogatsu (New Year) offering
Kinki no yakimono (grilled rockfish)
Kinmedai no nitsuke (learn more about this golden-eye snapper dish, include its sex appeal, here)
The main attraction, though, was sushi. We often do omakase, but as we were only planning to have a limited amount of sushi, we decided to go a la carte, pacing ourselves by ordering just a small amount at a time. We savored every bite, enjoying a chance to chat with Kitamura, as it was a mellow night at the restaurant to that point. I didn’t shoot everything, so here are a few of the dishes we had:
A sampling of nigiri
Salmon skin roll (I don’t normally like rolls, but this is a simpler one, and I love salmon skin)
Our two favorites: uni (maybe the best I’ve tasted in Seattle) and scallop (so sweet!)
As we prepared to leave, Kitamura presented us with some chestnut crème brule to share as a sweet finish to the meal.
As for that spreadsheet, it revealed that Kisaku is least expensive, followed closely by Tamura, and then Shiro’s as most expensive. Shiro’s nigiri prices were consistently at least fifty cents to a dollar higher than Tamura’s. Prices were the same at Tamura and Kisaku for a number of items (sweet shrimp, scallop, octopus, and sea urchin), but then jumped considerably higher at Tamura for others (egg, squid, and sockeye salmon).
Seafood quality is high at all three places, with Shiro Kashiba often able to access some unique items you might not find elsewhere.
So, when it comes to recommendations, I’d say that if someone wants to stay close to downtown and has a thick wallet, Shiro’s will be satisfying. My partner and I, though, prefer Tamura and Kisaku—for different reasons. Tamura’s got interesting ippins and solid sushi in a classier environment. But at the same time, Kisaku appeals to us for its good value, less formal feel—and for special preparations like maguro bincho zuke and my favorite: hotate konbu jime.