Food & Drink

Ballard: Now with 150% More Sushi

Whatever Your Peculiar Predilections, There's a Place for You

Ballard: Now with 150% More Sushi

Kelly O

Moshi Moshi

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Moshi Moshi's Kotaro Kumita

You could get sushi in Ballard before: inexpensive sushi, usually described as "okay," at the unfancy Bento Sushi and Sam's Sushi Bar & Grill. But Ballard is no longer inexpensive, "okay" is no longer okay, and, in an evolutionary quantum leap, three fancy new sushi bars have opened in Ballard in the last five minutes. Two of them are on the same block. All three are quite good; while I didn't locate any reality-bending bites of sheer sushi bliss, none of them would be out of place in Belltown. Which one is right for you? Depends on what you like.

Do you like pretty trees? How about cartoons? Do you like smoking marijuana? This last preference is not a prerequisite; it's just that Moshi Moshi Sushi (5324 Ballard Ave NW, 971-7424), or The Place with the Tree, is self-evidently an especially good place for your highness. The airy, two- story-tall space buzzes with collective happy sushi-eating excitement while simultaneously projecting tranquility—e.g., a few Japanese paper parasols hung on a celadon wall. The Tree, at the center of the room, is also two stories tall, and it is covered in tiny pink fabric cherry blossoms, and each one is illuminated by a tiny LED, and these tiny LEDs emit light on a magical hypnotic wavelength. Furthermore, "Moshi Moshi Sushi" means "Hello Sushi." Stare up at the Tree, murmuring "Moshi Moshi!" in your mind, and you are in an anime fairy tale.

At Moshi Moshi, the fish is fresh, handled with care, and not subjected to too much elaboration. The rice is pleasantly on the slightly vinegary side; cuts of fish for nigiri are long and thick. The head sushi chef, Kotaro Kumita, trained with traditionalist Shiro, whose Belltown sushi bar is considered by many to be the best in town. (Before that, Kumita spent time behind the bar at Hana on Broadway, considered by many to be just all right, but really cheap.) If you like to sit at the bar, Kumita and his colleague are a pleasure to watch work, and they'll answer whatever questions you might have. Meanwhile, the floor servers devote themselves to maniacal beverage- monitoring and removal of empty dishes. In the latter capacity, they say each and every time, "I'll clear this plate for you" or "Can I get this out of your way?" It's not a hate crime, but a little silent efficiency would not be amiss. In other minor quibbles: The dark wood chairs and bar stools do not match the blond benches, bar top, and other accent woodwork, which gives a cut-rate effect, which Moshi Moshi's prices are not. But! Cocktails are taken seriously here, with delicious-sounding drinks made by a barman imported from San Francisco's Slanted Door. (Tree appreciation also doubtless increases while sipping an Angel's Share.) In final noteworthiness: Happy hour, both early and later-night, has inexpensive drinks, sake, tempura, and various rolls—if I lived nearby, I'd be there for it and the Tree at least once a week.

Do you like fedoras? Are you fond of mayonnaise and fried-ness? What about special-action toilets? While it's true that it doesn't sound very appetizing, Shiku Sushi (a few doors south of M.M. at 5310 Ballard Ave NW, 588-2151) must be known as The Place with the Toilet, as its most-talked-about feature is a TOTO-brand commode imported from Japan. The Toilet has many buttons, which activate functions involving surprising jets of water, which are delivered to areas not accustomed in this country to such visitations. Also, there is drying by way of warm air. It's, um, interesting but time-consuming; on a busy night, the ladies' room line could get daunting.

Also much-mentioned with regard to Shiku: the fedora-wearing staff, whose headwear is meant to complement the dim, sleek urbane atmosphere. Only one fellow, head sushi chef Johnny Kim, was thus haberdashed on my visit (a disappointment, even though the gimmick is silly). Given Shiku's mod/noir elegance, the laminated flip charts with color photos of the specialty rolls are incongruous, as is the mark-a-list-with-a-pencil style of sushi ordering. This is a low-rent system; they do this at Hana. Yet you're paying upmarket prices for your seat at Shiku. And it's a particular letdown if you like sitting at the bar, where the piece-of-paper go-between discourages interaction. Then when Kim was asked why the Homeless roll was named that, he said he was too slammed to answer and it'd have to wait. (The eventual reason: "It's so good, you'll get addicted right away and won't want to cook at home anymore.")

The Homeless roll involves jumbo-shrimp tempura and avocado topped with a hillock of soft-shell crab mixture drenched (their word, and an accurate one) with spicy mayo, then drizzled with that sweet, teriyaki-style unagi sauce. In general, mayo and tempura and squeeze-bottled sauces and gigantic-roll format are favored here; if that's your thing, you'll be in hog heaven. (The dark booths would also be perfect for stuffing big pieces of roll into each other's maws, all romantic- like.) Shiku's nigiri has smaller pads of rice than usual; one piece of fish had a ragged edge. And while service was generally attentive, an order of miso soup got forgotten. (There's a happy hour here, too; you could hit both Shiku and Moshi Moshi, and see for yourself.)

Do you like hearty greetings? How about nice families? Does the quality of genuineness please you? O'shan Sushi (5809 24th Ave NW, 420-3737), or The Place of the Sparkly Tie, is located in the former Austin Cantina space, much smaller than the other two. While it's not without contemporary decorative charm—in paticular, a backlit screen on one wall—O'shan feels less forcibly high- or low-wattage, overall lower-key. (As are the prices; each nigiri pair is $1 to $1.50 less here.)

It's a family affair: One night last week, the owner's father was behind the sushi bar, welcoming everyone as they came in. His best friend was lodged at one end, visiting, eating, and wearing a tie that was somehow both sparkly and tastefully elegant. Other bar- sitters were introduced to Sparkly Tie; exchange of pleasantries ensued. The unendingly nice server turned out to be the owner's sister, and when her dad tried to give her a caterpillar roll that didn't have salmon-roe eyeballs and shrimp antennae, she made him add them before taking it to its destined table.

I had my favorite piece of fish of all three places here, a lemony, almost sweet, super-rich ono (aka escolar), and I only had it because the sushi chef told me I should. Left to his own devices, he also made a simple but balanced, above-par roll: saba, shiso, and pickled ginger.

There's less to say about O'shan Sushi—no tree, regular toilets—but it seems like a very fine place to become a regular to me. recommended

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Comments (36) RSS

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"Furthermore, "Moshi Moshi Sushi" means "Hello Sushi." Stare up at the Tree, murmuring "Moshi Moshi!" in your mind, and you are in an anime fairy tale."

I had to scroll up to make sure I wasn't reading a Mudede review. That's a bad thing.
Posted by Kremgli on May 13, 2009 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Michael In Ballard 2
The Ballard News-Tribune website had a video up a little while ago with interviews with the owners of the new restaurants. Here's a link:…
Posted by Michael In Ballard on May 13, 2009 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Nice photo of gross, fatty, pet-food pellet fed, artificially petroleum-dyed, farm salmon in your pic there.

If they are serving that low of quality salmon, imagine how cheap they go on their other fish?

Farm salmon eat chicken feathers, chicken shit, rendered sick and dead surplussed farm animals-pigs, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, rendered put-down pets and rendered roadkill (where did you think those carcasses end up? They are too valuable for their rendered fats to end up in a landfill, ask your vet!), slaughterhouse remnants, endangered foodfish from depleted third world fisheries, factory trawler waste, fly ash and other metal by-products from the metal industry, and whatever is in barrels marked "animal protein" from China.

The cheapest "shit" in the world baby, out of site, out of mind. Why do think so many pets get tumors, so young?

Plus all the residual antibiotics, parasiticides, heavy metals, mercury, copper, and lead that gets slipped in for weight.

Pure poison.

I know, I used to save a pet food company good money sourcing the cheapest ingredients possible for their premium "natural" pet food line. The cheaper I sourced, the bigger my bonus. My mandate was to fill the vat, and beat the bottom line for protein content, but nobody really checked. The money was too good. So we all cheated, a lot. My bad, bad youth, trying to pay for a too expensive college. Then my favorite prof, out of concern for my soul, gave me a copy of "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair--the 1906 expose of the corruption and excesses of the meatpacking and slaughterhouse industry.

The nightmares, the horror, the horror. I quit.

USDA inspections? In four years I never saw an inspector in our plant. And that was during Clinton's regime. After Bush and Cheney's gutting of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, bon appetit !
You can have all the regulations in the world, but if there is no budget for inspectors..........
And little has changed since "The Jungle" was published. Really.

I get much humor from aqua-vegetarians who say the only creatures they eat is fish. But most of the fish they eat is farm-raised and fed pellets of this shit.

Farm salmon, catfish, trout, steelhead, tilapia, kampachi, basa, "scottish organic farmed salmon-WTF?" and farmed-shrimp. All farmed by mega-corporations that are losing millions on feed costs in this depression and cutting costs anywhere they can. It is way worst now, than when I was in the industry.

So Eat Shit, literally, you stupid fucking yuppies, and say hello to Fido, Scruffy, Whiskers, Mr. Ed and that dead skunk on the side of the road as it goes down.

I'll be at the places that serve sustainable wild salmon. From Alaska.
Posted by The Body is A Temple on May 13, 2009 at 9:22 PM · Report this
Cheap ass fucks, selling fake salmon sushi in Ballard, the home of the Alaskan fleet, this is war.
Posted by Your Neighborhood Viking on May 13, 2009 at 9:26 PM · Report this
"The head sushi chef, Kotaro Kumita, trained with traditionalist Shiro, whose Belltown sushi bar is considered by many to be the best in town. (Before that, Kumita spent time behind the bar at Hana on Broadway, considered by many to be just all right, but really cheap.)"

Farm salmon?

He didn't learn much from, Shiro, Shiro doesn't serve that fake salmon crap.

Looks like he brought his skills and quality from Hana instead to Ballard. The new fake amateur crowd in Ballard ain't gonna know the difference.
Posted by There is a reason that sushi is cheap on May 13, 2009 at 9:34 PM · Report this
You broke my heart.
I buy cheap dog food and eat cheap sushi.
My last three puppies died way too young of tumors. Gross, nasty tumors, horrible, cancerous deaths. I need to look into better chow for my baby. And no more fish from farms.
Posted by Bad Mommy on May 13, 2009 at 10:41 PM · Report this
If they are using farm salmon instead of wild, they are taking other shortcuts.
Posted by Sushi Lover on May 13, 2009 at 11:12 PM · Report this
Farm salmon is good for you. I eat it every day and so do my kids. Fish Farming will save the oceans and the earth. Our industry has a very good record of being environmentally concerned. All of our feed sources are carefully inspected by government agencies. We may have had problems in the past, but we have cleaned up our act. Farm fish are as safe as any other popular American food. We recycle wholesome byproducts from the greatest food factory on earth, the United States, and make a tasty, well loved, inexpensive product that all American families can enjoy. Farmers were the original green hippies.
Posted by Fish Farms Forever on May 13, 2009 at 11:26 PM · Report this
Original Green Hippies?

I think you've been eating too much of that nasty farm salmon.
Posted by O.G. Greane Faerie on May 14, 2009 at 1:20 AM · Report this
So where can I get sushi that isn't so scary?
Posted by O.G. Greane Faerie on May 14, 2009 at 1:24 AM · Report this
I always ask the sushi chef if the salmon is farmed or wild. Sometimes I call first. If a waiter hesitates one bit, or doesn't know, I make them go back into the kitchen and check. If I still think they are bullshitting, I ask to see the invoice for the fish.
The way to make sure they don't lie is to frame your question as thus:
I am bringing in my brother, cousin, or friend, who fishes in Alaska, is a chef, fishmonger, foodblogger, or a foodwriter, or owns a seafood company, and I wanted to check if your salmon is wild or farmed?
They don't lie too often when you frame the question like this.
Posted by Don't be fucking with my fish on May 14, 2009 at 4:58 AM · Report this
For all the sushi that Seattlites eat, they sure east a bunch of crappy fish.
How about a list of all the crappy places where you have had bad fish?

I'll put Wasabi Bistro on the list, had some squid I had to spit out. Almost puked it was so bad.

Mashiko in West Seattle tries to pass farm salmon on you.

Same with Sam's, Blue C is cheap fish, so is Hana.
Posted by Don't even be fucking with my Sushi on May 14, 2009 at 5:06 AM · Report this

"Farm salmon, catfish, trout, steelhead, tilapia, kampachi, basa, "scottish organic farmed salmon-WTF?" and farmed-shrimp. All farmed by mega-corporations that are losing millions on feed costs in this depression and cutting costs anywhere they can. It is way worst now, than when I was in the industry."

I need to do some homework on farmed fish and pet food, any suggestions?
For sushi I usually go to Maneki's, no farmed salmon there. I need to check on the other species.
Posted by Sushi Mom on May 14, 2009 at 5:26 AM · Report this
Yeah, what's the deal with Mashiko? Most of the fish is top rate, then they give you mushy farm salmon, rude. I don't get it. Why the inconsistency? Are people that stupid that they don't know, can't tell? My boyfriend loves the place, I don't want to go back.
Posted by Fishwife on May 14, 2009 at 5:54 AM · Report this
How about Azuma?
Farmed or wild?
Posted by Fishwife on May 14, 2009 at 5:56 AM · Report this
@3 Thanks for wiping out most of the fish I eat. I can pass on everything but trout, my favorite broiled. Where can you buy wild trout? Anybody?
Posted by Surf and Turf on May 14, 2009 at 9:05 AM · Report this
I've eaten at Moshi several times. I can tell you that there's never been farmed salmon served there and their tuna is flash frozen and flown in from Tokyo every AM. The downside is the prices are up there, especially in this economy. And they have great cocktails but they're on the smaller side. All premium pours but frankly not many people can tell so why pay more? So we've cut back on eating there and elsewhere but will still hit their happy hour and Shiku's.
Posted by ballarddawg on May 14, 2009 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Here's an interesting article about what exactly is allowed into your pets' food.

Also, I don't disagree that fish is delicious, but considering that the world's oceans are responsible for sustaining all life on this planet, I would rather not put that at risk for something that tastes good for a couple minutes.

Commercial fishing is destroying the oceans. Commercial fish farming is destroying the land.

Doesn't seem worth it to me just to satisfy a craving.
Posted by Trogdor on May 14, 2009 at 12:22 PM · Report this
@3 and @18
Holy Smokes! I never realized how dastardly the pet food industry is, and this same crap is fed to farm fish also, just sick.
I cut out part of the article-pasted below--

Rendered Unhealthy
The heartbreaking events of last spring illustrate just how precarious pet-food safety is. Like agribusiness, which puts a pricey marketing spin on meat, eggs, and dairy foods, the $13-billion-a-year pet industry goes to great expense to make consumers feel good about pet food. What's not to like? Well, for one thing, dog and cat food has become a dumping ground for slaughterhouses: heads, intestines, spinal cord tissue, udders, hooves, and other animal remains considered unfit for human consumption are turned into profit by feeding them to Fido and Fluffy.

Moreover, rendering plants sell many pet-food manufacturers material called "tankage," which may contain parts of animals accidentally killed by vehicles, ingredients high in hormone or pesticide residues, expired meat, zoo animals, livestock ear tags, euthanized animals and their flea collars, Styrofoam packaging, and plastic bags. Other contaminants that have been found in commercial dog and cat foods include restaurant grease—complete with high concentrations of dangerous free radicals and trans—fatty acids-antibiotic residues, moldy grain, PCBs, hazardous preservatives, and viral, bacterial, protozoal, fungal, and prion contaminants, the last of which can cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

Among the industry's most controversial practices is using so-called "4-D meat." Flesh from disabled, diseased, dying, or dead animals (who died in transit to the slaughterhouse) may not be allowed on the butcher's counter, but it's perfectly acceptable in your best friend's bowl, even if the meat is filled with cancerous tissue and pharmaceuticals.

The result is a pathogenic smorgasbord that has contributed to a decline in health among companion animals, says Armaiti May, DVM. "Diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, cystitis, kidney and liver disease, skin problems, obesity, thyroid dysfunction, and various cancers are becoming more common in our domesticated animals," she says. "This increase in disease incidence is attributed in part to commercial pet foods."
Posted by I'm gonna throw up on May 14, 2009 at 5:07 PM · Report this
@17 Ballarddawg

Dawg, wassup?
I'm a chef in Ballard, not a sushi chef, but I purchase and cook a lot of salmon and seafood. And Dawg, I bet I could serve you cat and dawg, and you wouldn't know. The salmon the Moshi chef is holding and the salmon on the plate in the pic is farmed, looks like farmed Atlantic. Those thick, white fat lines are and indication, not natural, and that weird orange color definitely came out of a bottle.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 14, 2009 at 5:35 PM · Report this
leek 21
Huh. I think that approximately 90% of the above comments were written by the same person. A better way to make your case against farmed salmon, sir or madam, would be first to research to make sure the restaurant you're accusing actually serves it. Then to state your case clearly and briefly under a normal-style registered pseudonym. But to each their own, I guess.

I found the sushi at Shiku excellent, and not only fried or besauced choices. I'm surprised Bethany didn't enjoy it so much, it seems!
Posted by leek on May 14, 2009 at 5:35 PM · Report this
leek, that's farm salmon, eat up.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 14, 2009 at 5:51 PM · Report this
Seattle Sushi Nazis need to wake up.
Check out this website:
Read Bottomfeeder, check out the new Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Sushi List:…

@3 Body is a temple-you can add Farmed Arctic Char to your list--

Farm salmon, catfish, trout, steelhead, tilapia, kampachi, basa, "scottish organic farmed salmon-WTF?" and farmed-shrimp. All farmed by mega-corporations that are losing millions on feed costs in this depression and cutting costs anywhere they can. It is way worst now, than when I was in the industry.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 14, 2009 at 8:45 PM · Report this
Shiro's also using same salmon for many years.
The farm salmon, but both are "organic" grow atlantic salmon.
Do you guys know the difference? no mercury. It is absolutely healthy.
I know both chefs. I am sure they have some special way to get such rare salmon.
They also cure the salmon(by salt vinegar and kelp), so taste is better. I guess that is a skill of "Edomae"style of sushi.

Posted by mello on May 15, 2009 at 12:08 AM · Report this
We hit the Moshi Moshi happy hour about a month back, and it was echoingly empty. Still, that didn't stop the waitress from ignoring us, the cocktails from being melted popsicles (ie, where's even a hint of liquor?) or the food from coming out a very, very long time after ordering.
I felt like I got to know that tree very well, staring at it for thirty minutes, wondering if any part of it was edible.
Posted by -ink on May 15, 2009 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Big news!!!
I and my friends went MoshiMoshi yesterday, but Chef Mr.Kumita seems left the company a few days ago.
We are very sad!! (It sounds like owner side has some prob---s.)???
His sushi is not regular cheap sushi. He makes sushi tradditional way with great passion. According to other chefs at MoshiMoshi, he was carrying "Wild Sockeye salmon" and "Wild White King Salmon" all the time. Those items was still in the menu. ....but...Can they keep the same quality of fish as Mr. Kumita did???
Good Luck, "Hello"sushi.
Posted by mello on May 15, 2009 at 12:57 PM · Report this

whatever. that's farm salmon in the photo.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 15, 2009 at 4:40 PM · Report this
It is not legal to sell "organic" farm salmon in the U.S.
It's a scam, it's Scottish farmed Atlantic Salmon and it falls short of even the lax organic standards here in the U.S. Some British "organic" certifier calls it organic for a nice fee. We looked into serving it and did the research and discovered the scam. Doesn't stop lots of American Chefs from serving it, it's cheap, and they can charge suckers as much as wild for the crap.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 15, 2009 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Ballard chef,

You seem like do not know anything about sushi.
Learn more!!
Posted by I love sushi on May 16, 2009 at 12:03 AM · Report this
Just worked the line all night, and cooked and cut lots of wild salmon.
The fattiest king, Copper River is in. Been cooking fresh springers and trollies all spring.
None of it looked like that "fish" in the Photo.
I've been cooking sockeye, coho and king all winter. Seen every kind of wild frozen salmon, super fatty to lean. Cooked white king too.
Give it up fool, that is farmed product.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 16, 2009 at 4:40 AM · Report this
Are you O.K? Ballard chef?

It sounds like you have some kind of stress.

I just read about your comment, but you have wrong idea.

Do not talk about only salmon. How about other fish?

They must be useing "sashimi"grade fishes for sure. Not like your grill grade fish!!!

You posted your comment 4 am in the morning. Were you drinking?

And you should think about restaurant bussiness. MoshiMoshi is not a high quality

sushi restaurant. I guess you are trying to -------.

Have a bigger mind ----!

From a restaurant owner in Ballard.

Posted by restaurant owner on May 16, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
i don't even care about farmed salmon. i care that this review is stupid.
ugh. bethany you are not witty or amusing.
Posted by don't need it here. on May 16, 2009 at 11:04 AM · Report this
@Everybody: Moshi Moshi serves three kinds of salmon: farmed Atlantic, wild sockeye, and wild white (my favorite, though I didn't have any salmon when I was there).

@26: It's true, sushi chef Kotaro Kumita and Moshi Moshi have parted ways as of the day after this article came out. I spoke with Kumita, who indicated that the split was unexpected. Owner Tracy Erickson said by phone that Kumita was "going a different direction" and then declined to comment further; owner Kevin Erickson then left a me voicemail saying he'd like to provide more context. I'll post again after I speak with him.

Chefs do come and go a lot, but considering Moshi Moshi's only been open since February, it does seem like a precipitous change.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on May 16, 2009 at 11:14 AM · Report this
I am grateful that, once in a while, I can still afford to eat fish, be it farmed, fresh or sticks.
Posted by UberAlles on May 18, 2009 at 9:41 PM · Report this
Mello, restaurant owner, i love sushi---
You can't fool a real chef, fool. And you can't fool an honest seafood chef in Ballard. There aren't many of us, but the honest ones among us are golden.
We are not going to sell you some farm crap like the sushi joints.
@7 Sushi Lover, I agree, if they are taking shortcuts and selling customers farm salmon, they are probably cutting some corners on other fish also.
Real sushi lovers demand wild salmon.
Posted by Ballard Chef on May 21, 2009 at 6:02 PM · Report this
Ballard Chef

you do drugs

Farm Salmon is organic better flavor than Alaska Wild any kind

go drink yourself
Posted by i love sushi chef on May 21, 2009 at 6:31 PM · Report this

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