Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

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It was a pleasant May in Seattle. I did not feel sodden as I did last spring and we were blessed with many glorious days as a prelude to the northern summer. On a pleasant Saturday we enjoyed apéritifs at Tavern Law and sauntered down to Momiji (紅葉) for dinner with a group of Australian expats and tourists.

The sister restaurant of Umi Sake House in Belltown, Momiji is Japanese for maple. Painted burgundy, the front bar featured a curious white latticed lampshade and was saturated in natural light.

With the exception of the wide street frontage, the layout of Momiji is the same as Umi’s. A corridor opened to a spacious dining room. The counter had a prime view of the sushi chefs deftly slicing sashimi and shaping nigiri.

At the centre was a serene Japanese garden.

We perused the comprehensive menu as I sipped a summery cocktail, The Getaway. In a tall glass was Hendrick’s Gin, Pimm’s and soda topped with a lychee.

We ordered an array of dishes among the seven of us. First was ahi pokē. Diced ahi tuna and cucumber were tossed with onion slivers, shichimi (Japanese seasoning), soy sauce and sesame seeds. The first time I ate pokē was at a Flying Fish cooking class. A Hawaiian salad, it had a luscious contrast of textures.

A plate of prawn and vegetable tempura was coated in a lumpy batter and pleasingly crunchy.

Poached beets, and a mound of arugula and shiso were drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.

Portions of grilled king crab was paired with ponzu dipping sauce and mixed greens. A generous serving, the crustacean was charred and meaty.

Soft shell crabs were pan fried to golden brown. The spindly morsels were sweet and succulent.

Wrinkled and charred, the half dozen prawn and scallop gyoza were juicy parcels of seafood encased in a thin wrapper.

Buckwheat noodles were stir-fried with cubes of tofu and an assortment of vegetables. Garnished with green onions, pickles and nori, the triangular bowl of yakisoba was a symphony of flavours.

With casual ambience and quality ingredients, Momiji is a delicious addition to 12th Avenue in Capitol Hill.


A mixed group of Americans and Australians met for happy hour at Nijo last week. Located a couple of blocks south of the Seattle Art Museum, the restaurant is on the Puget Sound end of Spring Street.

A courtyard is fenced by bamboo and would be popular for al fresco dining during summer.

Festive baubles dangled from ceiling lights. There was a bar and a sushi counter, and tables were by the window.

Happy hour is daily, early and late. The beverages menu was the same length as the food menu! A selection of appetisers, maki, temaki, nigiri and sashimi were discounted.

Three large marbles of takoyaki were drizzled with mayonnaise and aonori. A savoury batter ensconced a tendril of octopus.

A generous mound of chicken karaage was served in an odd sized bowl. The chicken pieces were marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, lightly dusted with flour and deep fried.

On the left was spicy tuna roll, a fiery blend of minced tuna and chilli. On the top right was Bainbridge islander roll, prawn, salmon, cucumber and avocado were seasoned with a spicy sauce. On the bottom right was salmon nigiri, a slice of salmon sashimi atop sushi rice.

On the left was ebi nigiri and on the right was seared spicy shiro magura (albacore tuna) nigiri, both were fresh and succulent.

We shared two desserts, tempura ice cream and fried banana spring roll. Green tea and red bean ice cream were cloaked in pound cake and deep fried. I preferred the delicate flavour of the green tea ice cream. There was no crunchy shell and it was more ice cream cake than tempura.

Crispy and sweet, banana and white chocolate were a sugary filling for the spring roll.

We are fond of happy hour in Seattle and Nijo is another recommendation!

I traipsed up to University Village on a weekday for an impromptu lunch at Shun with Lovely Lanvin and Seattle Bon Vivant. An overcast morning, the clouds dissipated into a brilliant afternoon. Shun is located about half a kilometre above U Village on the ground floor of an apartment building.

Shun has a three course lunch for fifteen dollars for Seattle Restaurant Week and it was nearly full by midday. There are three sections to the restaurant. To the left of the entrance is a long and narrow space, perfect for group gatherings. To the right is the main dining room and sushi counter.

We were seated at the sushi counter and Japanese greetings were exchanged. Chef Yoshi’s nimble hands were making nigiri by the dozens as he chatted with Shirley. Ceramic bowls and plates were neatly stacked on shelves and a decorative plate depicted a traditional scene.

An ornate pot and dish set for soy sauce.

Three portions of seared albacore tuna and mixed greens were drizzled with an onion soy dressing. The sashimi was a little soft and the dressing accentuated the sweetness of the fish.

I selected tempura soba for the main. A large bowl of savoury broth swirled with firm strands of buckwheat noodles. A liberal sprinkle of shichimi and I slurped gently, comforted by the spicy warmth.

Two prawns, a broccoli floret and a potato fritter, the tempura were served separately. I did not put my tempura into the broth until Shirley explained that’s how it’s eaten in Japan! I like the crunch of the tempura batter but that is what adds flavour to the noodle soup.

Dessert was presented on a lime and white chequered tile with a daffodil border. A sliced strawberry and a dollop whipped cream accessorised the caramel flan. Silky custard and sticky caramel was a lovely final course.

The restaurant was still full when we left, Seattle Restaurant Week is popular!

I succumbed to a Groupon deal a couple of months ago. I paid twenty five dollars for fifty dollars worth of food and beverages at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar. We were at the Kangaroo and Kiwi Pub in the early hours of Sunday morning to cheer on the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup. Alas we were disappointed with the result and woke up lethargic. Within walking distance, the voucher was perfect for a lazy dinner.

As with many restaurants in Seattle, Seastar is dimly lit. The restaurant was full so we sat in the bar. A spacious area with individual tables, a communal bench and counter seating, it was a busy evening being the first day of the autumn Seattle Restaurant Week. A single glassybaby was our source of light to read the menu.

The menu was a combination of hot and cold seafood. We selected a soup, a sushi roll and the raw bar sampler to share. The large bowl of Dungeness crab and corn bisque was warming. Absent of corn kernels, the bisque had chunks of Dungeness crab and was drizzled with a Madeira reduction and fresh chives. The Port added a depth of flavour to the bisque.

We misread the menu and expected a plate of tempura but it was futomaki tempura! Coated in tempura batter, the sushi roll had cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, asparagus, green onion and daikon pickle. It was an odd sensation to eat warm sushi but the vegetables were pleasingly crunchy.

The three tiered raw bar sampler was presented with a flourish. On the bottom was scallop ceviche with mango-kiwi relish, lemon, lime and cilantro. Unripe fruits and acidic juices masked the sweetness of the scallops.

In the middle was a California roll of Dungeness crab, avocado and cucumber. These bite size morsels had plenty of fresh crab.

And on the top was ahi pokē. Cubes of tuna were marinated in soy, chilli, Maui onions and sesame seeds. Wafer thin taro crisps were the utensil topped with strands of daikon radish and green onions.

On a glass tile, the aloha roll was bursting with ahi, hamachi, salmon, avocado, cucumber and chilli. This sushi roll lacked the finesse of Japanese cuisine but had an abundance of glistening sashimi.

Service was mostly absent but it was value for money!

I have an aversion to raw food. I dislike crunchy salads and have been eating sashimi for just over a year. I’m suspicious that the glistening flesh will be slimy and fishy. I now love salmon and tuna sashimi, and progressing with oysters.

I attended the Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms earlier this week. Keen to learn about shellfish, I was delighted that Bill Whitbeck, or Oyster Bill, was the guest for the return of the series.

Held in the private dining room of the Dahlia Lounge, it was an intimate space with cosy round tables brightened with posies of sunflowers.

I found good seats with Darryl and we perused the menu as attendees trickled in. There were four bites from Chef Brock Johnson paired with Muscadet and a special beer by Elysian Brewery.

Tom Douglas was resplendent in his oyster shucking sunglasses. He demonstrated the calmness required which bemused Oyster Bill.

Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is a very ugly species of clam. The room descended into naughty giggles as the phallic shellfish was passed around.

Virginica oysters and Mediterranean mussels were displayed on ice. Tom Douglas welcomed the group and explained the purpose of the Little Tastes of Dahlia series is to connect with and learn from suppliers. He introduced Oyster Bill from Taylor Shellfish Farms. They recently opened a store in Melrose Market on Capitol Hill.

Tom mentioned that he’ll eat oysters smoked, poached and broiled but not raw. Tom and Bill demonstrated their shucking techniques, twist not pry! Tom’s first job in the restaurant industry was shucking oysters for a buffet.

The first course was a Virginica oyster with heirloom melon, cucumber, lemon and mint. I don’t know how to eat an oyster gracefully so I pick up the half shell and slid its contents into my mouth. And I didn’t slurp! Shimmering and briny, the Virginica oyster had a delicate flavour that was enhanced by the diced accompaniments.

Farmed in Totten Inlet in south Puget Sound, the Virginica oysters grow in mineral rich waters. They’re the same species as the Atlantic oysters but have a different flavour profile. Ocean acidification has affected supply and Bill commented that it is a global warming issue.

Land is leased from private owners for farming. Specific conditions including fresh water and salinity level are needed as the oysters are not fed once released from the hatchery. The oysters eat algae and are all natural.

Chef Brock Johnson detailed the ingredients of each dish. The seared Qualicum Beach scallop was paired with batons of Ruby Jon apples and seaweed, and served with cracked pepper and drizzled with olive oil. Plump and tender, the simple dressing highlighted the freshness of the scallop.

Geoducks are unique to the Pacific Northwest. They can live to more than a hundred years old. The older geoducks have darker meat, and can be tough and chewy. If caught in the wild, you cannot return them. Taylor Shellfish farms geoducks and they are harvested at about eight years old.

Like trees, geoducks and oysters have ridges on their shells to indicate age. Geoducks burrow in sand and live below the surface. Only an inch or two of the snout is visible. Considered a delicacy in Asia, the largest export market is China. Tom shared an anecdote that a geoduck chow mein was on the opening menu of Dahlia Lounge more than twenty years ago!

To prepare the geoduck, blanch it in boiling water until the skin blisters. Remove the sausage casing like skin, glide knife along the shells to detach the muscles and the geoduck is ready for consumption. The belly is best for sautéing or in a stir fry and the siphon can be sliced for sashimi or ceviche.

A deconstructed chowder, the geoduck essence was steeped into mashed satina potatoes. Geoduck sashimi and bacon salt perched on a dollop of infused mashed potatoes, a tiny portion and yet so scrumptious. The geoduck was succulent and toothsome, close your eyes and you can feel the sand between your toes, hear the waves lapping and smell the salty air.

The final course was Mediterranean mussel with linguiça and pickled peppers in a tomato saffron broth. Brock noted that Mediterranean mussels spawn in winter and peak in summer which coincides perfectly with tomato season. You generally cannot overcook Mediterranean mussels, they tend to retain suppleness.

The heady combination would make a delicious moules frites, the mussel absorbed the intense aromatic broth and the spices in the salty Portuguese cured pork sausage.

Beer is a classic match with mussels and we were lucky to sample a glass of Elysian Brewery Saison of the Witch. A collaborative effort, the beer is brewed by Elysian Brewery and Brave Horse Tavern with Prosser Farm pumpkins and wild fennel. The Halloween themed, Belgian farmhouse beer was pleasant to drink and I think it’s a festive season beer!

We were also poured a glass of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet and toasted wine importer Joe Dressner.

Little Taste of the Dahlia with Oyster Bill was another quality Tom Douglas event and I look forward to the next in the series!

On our last day in Fiji, the gentlemen went fishing. The ladies stayed ashore and breakfasted, had massages, kayaked, swam and packed.

They met at the jetty before dawn and motored out to sea. The waters were a little rough but the trawling yielded eleven fish! The first tug on the line was a marlin but unfortunately it broke free. They reeled in two barracuda, two tuna and seven mahi mahi.

There was much excitement when the boat docked. The haul was gutted and rinsed on the jetty before two mahi mahi and one tuna were taken to the restaurant for our lunch. The remaining fish were given to the locals as we weren’t going to eat a whole fish each!

A cooking fee was charged per person at the Shangri-La Beach Bar and Grill for our ocean to table meal. The two mahi mahi were simply grilled and served with lime wedges and stalks of watercress, and accompanied by the mysterious pesto like sauce. The chef did well to cook the fish through and the flesh flaked off the bones easily.

With a squeeze of lime, the chunks of mahi mahi were sweet and had a firm meaty texture. I would have preferred coriander instead of watercress, and some freshly ground black pepper would have be a welcomed addition.

The tuna was filleted and served as sashimi. It had a deep burgundy colour, darker than other tuna sashimi I’ve had at Japanese restaurants. It was also moist, possibly due to how it was sliced and prepared. I was reluctant to eat this as it was piled on a plate without the exquisite presentation expected of Japanese cuisine. Mr S urged that I try a piece and it was succulent and really fresh!

Two mahi mahi and one tuna were plenty for seventeen people, one toddler and one baby! The gentlemen were proud of their effort and the ladies were happily full.

We noticed a board listing the fish notification flags at the Bilo Bar. These were hoisted on the returned boat to indicate what fish was caught.

Our last sunset in Fiji was a kaleidoscope of colours reflecting off the cotton candy sky and crystal clear waters. Vinaka Fiji!

Sushi rolls is considered fast food in Australia. From sushi train (or conveyor belt sushi) to sushi roll counters in food courts, it’s omnipresent in our southern hemisphere city diet.

I love sushi rolls for lunch – it’s cheap, there’s a variety of fillings to choose from and it’s relatively healthy. My favourite place in Sydney to grab a couple of sushi rolls for a quick work lunch is in a grimy train station in desperate need of refurbishment. Yet loyal customers return again and again, a testament to an efficient queue and value for money.

I haven’t found any ‘fast food’ sushi rolls in Seattle but I’ve now dined at the Downtown/Belltown trinity of Japonessa, Umi and Shiro’s. The first time we tried to eat at Shiro’s, they were closed for renovations. This time we were lucky to get a table without a booking on a Friday evening.

Shiro’s has a small dining room with the sushi counter featuring prominently. The three sushi chefs greeted us as we entered and service was polite and friendly throughout. We were presented the standard menu and also an ordering sheet and pen for the daily specials and chefs’ selections.

Glistening and marbled, the five triangular pieces of salmon sashimi were savoured for its freshness and mildly sweet flavours.

Next we shared fresh crab and tempura spider crab rolls. The inside out fresh crab roll was meaty, a textural contrast to the creaminess of the soft shell crabs.

Our waiter recommended the salmon roll which had a thick slice of seared salmon embracing the inside out sushi roll of more salmon. The searing highlighted the succulent flesh.

We indulged in a plate of karaage, marinated chicken dusted in a light batter and deep-fried. I loved that Shiro’s served the chicken on the bone and it had a delightfully crunchy coating. A challenge to our chopsticks dexterity, we didn’t hesitate to eat these with our fingers!

We’ll return for a seat at the sushi counter to watch chef Shiro in action!

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