Thursday, April 9, 2009

Umi Sake House

A couple of days ago, I met up with an old friend, J. (and I mean, we go all the way back to our high school days, but didn't realize we were in the same area until last week, due to Facebook) and went to Umi Sake House in Belltown. It was just a couple of blocks down from Wasabi Bistro.

The food and the service were both great. It's a little pricey but not outrageously so. Their $25 omakase was decent in selection and wonderful in freshness (Wasabi Bistro's low-end omakase may be just a bit better, but is also a little more costly). Umi has a huge selection of rolls -- they even have a "fresh" menu of the day for these -- and some may sound familiar while others are a little more out there. For a "trendy" sushi place I was pretty impressed (I must admit to a bias for smaller mom & pop type restaurants). Many times it's all style and no substance, but that wasn't the case with Umi. I'd happily go back.

And now onto the pictures (again, apologies for the blurriness and discoloration on some of these -- the restaurant is dimly lit)...

Their regular menu is on the left; it's long and oversized, and attached on a clipboard. It's two pages. The second page is filled with all their different kinds of rolls and nigiri options. The "fresh" menu is on the left. I'm not sure if that changes daily or weekly or how it works.

I got to the restaurant a bit early, due to overestimating how much traffic would delay me. Our waitress, who was super nice, started me off with some edamame and offered to get some hot ones when J. arrived.

J. ordered a lychee sake (they have many other flavored sakes), which is apparently more like a cocktail than traditional sake. I stuck with water since my body has an intolerance for alcohol. I ate J.'s lychee when he was done with his drink though, and it was really delicious.

We got agedashi tofu as an appetizer ("fried tofu in house ankake sauce") and it was reaaaalllly good. Each tofu was topped with something a bit different: ginger, daikon, green onion, seaweed, and a kind of shaved fish. The sauce was so light and wonderfully tasty that if I'd had a large bowl of white rice I'm not ashamed to say I probably would have doused the whole thing in it.

I also ordered a panda roll from their "fresh" menu. I was trying to decide between that or the caterpillar roll, which is always a favorite of mine. However, I can get a caterpillar roll just about anywhere, and the panda roll really intrigued me. It was made of salmon skin and avocado, with seared albacore tuna wrapped around it, topped with green onions and black bean sauce.

It had a wonderful smoky flavor from the salmon skin, creaminess from the avocado, and heft from the tuna. I'd definitely get it again the next time I go back.

Normally the trendy, unique rolls in restaurants like these don't appeal to me much (I avoid anything with spicy fish, cream cheese, and if I can help it, mayo), but this one sounded really good. It had many things that I liked (and none of the things I don't like). The only thing iffy about it was the black bean sauce, which I thought might be a little too overwhelming. I needn't have feared. It was very light -- not overpowering at all. And I'll give this to Umi also -- their rolls are huge. Other places' rolls are often half this size!

For his main course J. got the chirashi bowl:

And I got the aforementioned omakase. If you ask me, though, our meals looked practically identical, except the chirashi bowl also comes with rice and a bowl of miso soup, for $3 less. If I did it again, I'd definitely get the chirashi over the omakase (at least, the $25 one). However, the next time I go back I'll probably do something a little different -- they had hamachi kama on the menu, which I love and almost ordered, and a little sashimi sampler, both for $10. Then I could also perhaps try another roll or two. This is one of the few restaurants that I can see myself ordering something different each time (normally I'm a creature of habit and stick to one or two items that I know I like).

Hugely enjoyable experience, not the least of which was because of getting back in touch with an old friend. I'm looking forward to our next meal together! :-)

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