Friday, January 1, 2010

Nishino 2009

On the last day of 2009, Mr.Lee and  I decided to celebrate our New Year's Eve in a quiet but delicious manner --eating sushi!  After all, what's a better way to end another wonderful year but to enjoy our favorite food?  And the place to have the best sushi in town?  Well, we're split between Shiro and Nishino, which are both great sushi restaurants with its own loyal fans to defend them passionately.  However, from our own dining experiences, we feel Nishino has more consistent quality in sushi.  This night, we didn't feel like trying our luck at Shiro's.  Plus, we've celebrated all our special occasions of 2009 at Shiro's already and just remembered that we haven't been to Nishino's this year.  So Nishino it was.  We jumped into the car and drove straight to Nishino.

Nishino doesn't take reservations for its sushi bar, and it means 30-50 min of waiting for seats if you walk in on a full bar.  But we must have had the blessings of Lady Luck this night.  Amazingly, the last two seats were available when we arrived.  We're seated and introduced to our chef: Chef Mori.  It's the first time we had him.  Chef Mori looks young.  He greets every patron with a cheerful enthusiasm and a warm smile.

We ordered Hamachi Kama Sansho Yaki (Yellowtail Collar w/ Sansho pepper) before surrendering the fate of our taste buds to Chef Mori.

First came Flounder and Seabass sushi.
Flounder is served with grated daikon (radish), green onion, and a light drizzle of ponzu.

Seabass is lightly sprinkled with sea salt and served with shiso leaves sandwiched between the sashimi and rice.


Both were delicious, and by now we already felt like we made the right choice tonight and starting to look forward to the next sushi. 

Next came Kampachi, which we're told is young Yellow Tail, and Aji (Jack Macherel) sushi.


Aji: Served with grated ginger and green onion

Hamachi Belly and Albacore Tuna.  Both were exquisite.

Hamachi Belly was meltingly delicious.

 Albacore Tuna

King Salmon and White Salmon.

I'm not a fan of salmon sushi.  Even though Seattle offers an abundance of the best and freshest quality salmon, it amazes me that the majority of salmon served as sashimi are not up to its best freshness.  When salmon has lost its freshness, it's got this taste, which I could only describe as if it was "cooked".  Cooked salmon, let it be grilled, pan fried, or steamed, is delicious, but a piece of raw fish tasting like it was cooked  turns me off.   

Turns out, even a skeptic of raw salmon like me could be utterly charmed by a salmon sushi like this night's.  It was probably the best salmon sushi I've ever had. I found myself savouring it, as if it has been my favorite sushi at all times.

Then came the grilled Yellow Tail we ordered. 
The Yellow Tail was served on a bed of Napa Cabbage coleslaw.
I was immediately in love with this dish.  From sight, it was grilled till the surface was golden brown with speckles of charred bits.  From smell, it had the sweetness of miso.   

Tasting it, it was juicy and tender, accompanied with the slightly charred salty surface, and every bite was as addictive as the previous.

It was grilled  to perfection.  Even Mr.Lee who seldom enjoy eating cooked fish, was enamoured of it and was almost gobbling up as eagerly as I was every morsel till it the meat has been completely stripped off its bones.  The Napa Cabbage coleslaw, made with sweet Japanese mayo, is tasty too. It balanced the fatty collar well.

Just when we felt our taste buds were completely satisfied and no more food could wow us farther, came the O-Toro (Fatty Tuna) and Maguro (Tuna) sushi. 
The O-Toro was truly remarkable.  It melted right in our mouths.  It was heavenly!!  It alone satisfied all my cravings for sushi this year.

Uni (Sea Urchin) and Ikura (Salmon Roe) sushi

For some odd reasons, many Uni sushi served in restaurants have an unpleasant aftertaste, with a tang of artificial sweetness, to me.  Not the Uni this night though.  It was pure creaminess and sweetness.  People say Uni tastes like the ocean, and now for the first time I get it.  This night, when the Uni hits my tongue, its cool and soft texture had a gentle and creamy but oddly refreshing taste, which submerged me and drew me to the ocean.

Jewels that burst

 Hotate (Scallop) sushi

Seared Super White Tuna sushi, topped with minced onion and cilantro leaves, then drizzled with ponzu. 
It was seared lightly, adding a slight smoky flavor, which worked well with the minced onion salsa.  

King Crab and Snow Crab sushi
Meaty and sweet, the way one would expect from really good crabs.   

Mirugai (Geoduck) Sushi
Crisp and Sweet

Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe) sushi with Quail Egg Yolk
This was a brilliant pairing of the creaminess of egg yolk and the crunchiness of Tobiko. 

Unagi (Fresh Water Eel) and Anago (Saltwater Eel) sushi, drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

At this point, our tummies were finally full.  Having been asked by Chef Mori several times about how full we were, I guess we impressed him with our appetite when we asked for more each time.  We couldn't help it, we're impressed by his sushi and we are eager for more.

Other than the Grilled Yellow Tail Collar, the only thing we ordered ourselves was the dessert: Mocha (Green Tea) Tiramisu.  It was a small piece of bland mousse with sponge cake.  I guess the cake was aiming for a "delicate" taste.  However, with no contrasting taste to balance the mousse, which had a very light taste of mocha and cream, nor a contrasting texture, as the both the mousse and cake were fluffy, the result is a bland and forgettable cake.  The cake was pricey for its small size, but I was grateful of its size, as I cannot imagine eating a bigger piece of blandness like it.

Ok, maybe I'm too harsh on the dessert.  It wasn't "bad", it's just after been pampered by exquisite sushi after sushi the whole night, I was expecting equal brilliance at the final note.  Nevertheless, enough is said about the disappointing dessert, which was the only drawback.  I must say that this night, we're satisfied.  I mean, REALLY satisfied.

We were right to throw ourselves to the chef's mercy and he showed us a great time.  The entire dinner was excellent, the service impeccable, and the food was memorably delicious. On this last day of 2009, we were full with good sushi, which is the best a foodie could wish for on the last meal of the year.  I just hope I'm not too greedy, having already had such a wonderful meal, by wishing when I drift off to sleep, I would dream of the glistening and fantastic sushi I had at Nishino's.

3130 East Madison Street
Seattle, WA 98112-4221
(206) 322-5800