ginger and salt

omakase birthday: nishino.

Last month, my lovely father happened to turn an impressive 65 years old.  He kicked off his 65th year with a bang by renting a party bus with his friends to go see Smokey Robinson in concert (at a casino), as one does. However, no birthday in our family is complete without a special meal.  This one was made even more special by a visit from our family friend whom we fondly refer to as Uncle Robert.

Time spent with Uncle Robert is always particularly fun for me as he and my parents became close friends in San Francisco during the 70’s and 80’s. Without getting into specifics, there is never a shortage of incriminating and equally hilarious tales, all of which make for excellent dinnertime entertainment. This year, Uncle Robert surprised my dad by flying up from California and treating our family to a wonderful dinner at Nishino.

Nishino is one of those places that has been in Seattle’s Madison Valley for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. The Japanese food and sushi are consistently great.  It’s the kind of place where you could sidle up to the bar and share a few rolls and some sashimi on a weeknight, but it’s also the kind of place where you can really ball out and have a truly memorable meal.

I have only been treated to an ‘omakase style’ dinner a few times in my life, and this was one of them. Omakase basically translates to sit back and relax and we’ll bring you awesome food.  Considering I’m Miss Planner and love to study menus prior to a meal, this is a welcome exercise in giving up control.

That being said, I really tried to be in the moment over the course of the meal and didn’t take any notes. There were so many dishes, each one better than the last.  I did my best to remember the description of each one, but it was a bit challenging.  There were incredible oysters on the half shell, delicate tempura, and Uncle Robert’s favorite, ankimo, which is a pâté of monkfish liver.  This was my first time trying ankimo and the smooth, almost airy texture was really interesting.

Several dishes involved beautiful sashimi, and there were lovely clams served in a smoky broth.  Curried halibut cheeks that were seared and served with cilantro aioli and Swiss chard were equally delicious.  The various sushi rolls and nigiri were perfect.  And who can be mad about mochi (ice cream encased in a sticky rice paste) and fruit served with candles? I’m a sucker for the not-too-sweet green tea flavor.

I have to say though, of all the dishes, my favorite was the seared tuna.  It was served over a shiitake mushroom and topped with foie gras and a red wine reduction.  Game over for this one.  I will remember that bite for a long time to come.

Seattle has no shortage of excellent sushi restaurants, but Nishino is up there as one of my favorites.  Whether or not you’re celebrating a 65th birthday soon, I recommend going and treating yourself to an omakase style dinner.  Smokey Robinson concert optional.

Nishino, 3130 East Madison Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 322-5800,, Open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5:30 – 10:00 pm, Sundays from 5:00 – 9:30 pm, Call for reservations

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  1. Mary Nelp

    Geez… It changed it again to relish from “delish.” After all that it should have been a really good comment. Next time!

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