Sushi Kappo Tamura

We named this Eastlake sushi spot the Best New Restaurant of 2011.
| Updated: November 27, 2018

What it brings to the table: Spine-tinglingly fresh fish shimmering from the sea, with a focus on sustainability and seasonality. Move over, Shiro’s and Nishino: This is the best sushi in Seattle—and it’s also the most consistently stellar restaurant to open this year.

After decades of deserved praise, the two sushi powerhouses—Shiro’s and Nishino—have been upstaged; it’s Sushi Kappo Tamura’s crown now.

Chef and owner Taichi Kitamura was born in Kyoto, Japan, but moved to Seattle at age 16. He pursued an international studies degree from Seattle University and then, in a locavore twist, learned the art of making sushi from Shiro himself. Kitamura later opened Chiso in Fremont, then launched Chiso Kappo upstairs in 2007, an omakase-only, chef’s choice, no-menu, 10-seat sushi bar that drew passionate sushi-philes, but struck many as too precious.

At Tamura, which Kitamura opened in July 2010 on Eastlake, he’s taken it down a notch in atmosphere and in price. But this is still a prime sushi destination: While there are plenty of blond wood tables in the open, light space for those who want to eat rolls and such ($4–$15), in order to sample the greatness of which Kitamura is capable, you’ve got to sit at the sushi bar. There, you can banter with Kitamura if you wish; he’s an affable guy, but deft. You can (and should!) ask him what is best that day, and then let him take the lead (by saying “omakase”—pronounced “oh-mah-KAH-say”—you are essentially putting yourself in his hands).

Perhaps you’ll start with oysters popping with seawater, followed by local albacore belly at the temperature of the palm of Kitamura’s expert hand, the rice with the faintest hint of rice vinegar. It is marvelous, a distant relative to the steaky rough texture you’d expect from albacore; this is lush but slightly firm.

A surprise: stewed local mushrooms with supple local geoduck so unlike any other geoduck on earth, its flesh tender and sweet, melting into thick, velvety mushroom sauce. Then, a crescendo of salmon belly so fat it nearly melts at room temperature (the heat of your mouth will do the rest); and uni (sea urchin), a fullness in the mouth, buttery and oceanic at once. Bliss.

An omakase meal at Tamura is a sensational splurge in every possible way (starting at $55 for a tasting menu; meals start at $100 and go up, depending on your appetite and budget). Service is attentive and approachable, and the food is impeccably prepared; Sushi Kappo Tamura is consistently outstanding. If you’ve never flirted with sushi before, this is the place to fall in love.

2968 Eastlake Ave. E