TUKWILA, Wa: Miyabi Sushi

One of my favorite lunches on rainy days is a Japanese bento box. The starter of hot miso soup is just the thing to chase the chills, and the tempura and succulent beef or chicken are excellent next courses. And in the Tukwila area near Southcenter in Seattle, there's no better place for a bento box than Miyabi!

I discovered Miyabi about four years ago and have gone back several times since. I have never been disappointed in anything I've ordered: the bento box, the sushi or sashimi, or other traditional Japanese fare.

Nestled in a smallish space next to Half Price Books in a strip mall that also houses my favorite Thai restaurant (Bai Tong), and Pho Tai, Miyabi would be an easy place to pass by. That would be unfortunate.

Upon entering, many of the hosts and hostess greet their guests in Japanese – a harbinger of the place’s authenticity.

Uni shot
On our most recent visit, my wife and I decided it had been too long since we had enjoyed sushi. I started out with an uni shot: a dollop of sea urchin sushi, a quail egg and a splash of ponzu sauce in a spoon. A decadent indulgence!

That was followed by a Rainbow Roll, a Spider Roll, ikura (salmon roe), tobiko (flying fish roe), and ebi (cooked shrimp). My wife sipped iced tea while I ordered a Kirin FREE non-alcoholic beer. All the dishes came with the requisite wasabi and gari (pickled ginger), though the wasabi was the Americanized version: a mixture of horseradish, mustard and green food coloring. Real wasabi has a much more complex flavor ... and is considerably more expensive. So much so that the Uwajimaya Japanese Market in nearby Renton doesn't even stock it.

The only disappointment was the Kirin FREE. While there are some alcohol-free beers that retain a true beer taste such as Bitburger DRIVE, the Kirin is best described as a malt-based beverage with a thinner taste and more watery mouth-feel than beer. Not bad, but not beer, either.

Total tab for our abundant sushi lunch: $75 with tip.

Miso soup and green tea
A week or so earlier, it was one of those rainy days I mentioned earlier and I was Jonesing for a bento box lunch. I settled into my seat at a cozy table for two and was immediately offered green tea, which I sipped while perusing the menu, just to be sure there wasn't something else that was
more appealing. A few moments later, I was asked if I was ready to order, and I said “no.” A brief time later, after I had set my menu down to indicate I’d reached my decision, a second waiter came by and took order. This teamwork by the staff is impressive and smoothly executed. It seemed any of the staff could be asked for anything, and they were more than happy to oblige.

For lunch, I stuck with my original notion of a bento box lunch, and added a starter of an uni shooter. While waiting for my food, I looked around and listened.

The d├ęcor is nicely done: it conveys an authentically Japanese feel without indulging in the kitsch factor present in so many themed restaurants. Listening to other diners’ conversations, it seemed that many had spent time in Japan for various reasons, providing a fairly authentic Japanese dining experience.

Except for the fact that tables at similar restaurants in Japan are much closer together than those at Miyabi, the experience was spot on.

Bento box lunch
The miso soup was served without a spoon, in the authentic Japanese manner. Sipping from the bowl is not rude; it’s the way it’s done.

Shortly after I’d finished my soup, the bento box came and it was perfect! The small salad of greens and noodles was lightly dressed and tasty. The tempura was fresh and still piping hot, so I tucked into that before it had the chance to cool. The chicken teriyaki was done perfectly: the chicken was moist and tender, without a hint of the rubbery texture often found in production line chicken. The rice, with a light dusting of black sesame seeds, and the California roll were also excellent. Additional wasabi, which I needed to sate my hot tooth, came quickly.

Total bill: $22 with tip (The uni shooter is $6).

Miyabi offers tables for two separated from the adjoining table by dividers that remind of Japanese paper fans. Tables for four and six are also available. There is also a large communal table and limited seating at the sushi bar itself.

RECOMMENDATION: A must for fans of sushi or any type of Japanese food.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
Click photos to view larger images