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VIDEO: A Look at Seattle’s Trace Restaurant

VIDEO: A Look at Seattle’s Trace Restaurant



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Trace’s chef, Steven Ariel, gives The Daily Meal an inside look

Ali Rosen

The Daily Meal’s video producer, Ali Rosen, caught up with Steven Ariel, the chef at Trace in Seattle, for an inside peek at the restaurant.

The new restaurant in Seattle’s W Hotel focuses on exploring the origins of various cuisines through showcasing products and ingredients that are available locally.

The concept behind Trace works so well in Seattle because it reflects the sensibility of the dining community in the city. Ariel explains, "Trace is such a good fit in Seattle because of all of the things we’re talking about with sourcing locally, farm-to-table dining — everyone here is doing it, so we would be kind of out of place if we weren’t doing it."

The menu at Trace is inspired by Asian cuisine, but it is not considered an Asian restaurant. "Being that we’re surrounded by water and we’re on the Puget Sound, there’s a lot of great seafood, and Seattle is a pretty ethnically diverse community, so there’s a lot of influences and it fits that we showcase a little bit of Asian flare," says Ariel.

Check out the video for much more from chef Ariel about Trace.


Saint Bread, a New Destination Bakery, Alights on Portage Bay

A bakery and cafe counter called Saint Bread opened softly this week in a former motor boatyard on the shore of Portage Bay. It occupies a spare, newly sparkling building that was used to be a machine shop within the Jensen Motor Boat Company complex. Inside, a menu of pastries, toasts, and sandwiches can trace its DNA directly back to the London Plane.

It’s the brainchild of Yasuaki Saito, an owner in both London Plane and Post Alley Pizza. He brought in baker Michael Sanders, who ran the impressive bread shop within London Plane, and Randi Rachlow from Acres Baking Co. All of which to say, dough figures heavily on the menu, but so do the trio’s various heritages. Saito’s friend Samuel Smith, of Portland’s marvelous Tusk, helped design a breakfast and lunch menu: egg salad sandwiches with kewpie mayo and furikake, an okonomiyaki tortilla. The toast game looks to be especially strong, with beautiful bread underpinning combos like hazelnut butter with pistachios, dates, and honey, or cinnamon and Okinawan sugar.

It’s probably unnecessary to point this out, but the contents of the glass pastry case are equally impeccable, from croissants to melonpan, chocolate chip cookies to savory twists of furikake and cream cheese. Cardamom knots pay tribute to the marina’s Scandinavian roots.

Honestly, Saint Bread feels sprung from a Seattle of 10 years ago, when our old buildings received thoughtful makeovers to connect our industrial past to a shinier future of craft. This building, once home to shipwrights, now looks toward University of Washington—academics, the medical center, the nearby school of oceanography—rather than Amazon. And if the narrative doesn’t move you, a handsome covered patio, currently home to two picnic tables, might.

When I swung in on day two, the woman who took my order raved about the breakfast sandwich. I squinted at the menu, looking for fancy sausage or ramps or some other aspect that explained her impassioned stance. Nope, this version is all about adding dimension to the essentials: a square of steamed egg inside one of those impressive melonpan, a whisper of cardamom subverting the expected flavors. An add-on slice of American cheese helped this fancy sandwich channel its inner McDonald’s breakfast.

It feels like a good avatar for one of the loveliest arrivals of 2021. Right now, Saint Bread is open Tuesday through Friday, from 8–2, at 1421 NE Boat Street (remember, it takes a while for a new place to find its footing). Keep tabs on things, and admire the custom stained glass window, on Saint Bread’s Instagram.


Canlis Hires Its First Female Executive Chef

Aisha Ibrahim will lead the kitchen of the celebrated 70-year-old restaurant in Seattle.

Since closing its dining room in March 2020, Canlis has reinvented itself several times over, shape-shifting from Seattle’s loftiest fine-dining restaurant into a bagel shop, a crab shack and a drive-in movie theater.

Now, the restaurant has made another, more permanent change, hiring Aisha Ibrahim as its new executive chef. Ms. Ibrahim, 35, is the seventh chef, and the first woman, to helm the Canlis kitchen in its 70-year history. She started work on April 30.

Ms. Ibrahim succeeds Brady Williams, who ended a six-year run at Canlis in February, and who plans to open his own restaurant in Seattle later this year.

Canlis opened in 1950 in a striking midcentury modern building with views of Lake Union, serving a menu of surf-and-turf classics with a Pacific inflection. In recent years, under the leadership of its third-generation owners, the brothers Mark and Brian Canlis, it has evolved from a beloved local institution to a player on the national fine-dining stage. Jason Franey, who arrived from New York City’s Eleven Madison Park as executive chef in 2008, revamped the menu in a modernist idiom: more artful plating, with more crumbs, foams and emulsions.

Mr. Williams, who brought a renewed focus on Asian techniques and ingredients, took over in 2015. In 2017, Canlis won its first James Beard award, for Outstanding Wine Program, under the wine and spirits director Nelson Daquip. In 2019, Mr. Williams was named Best Chef: Northwest, and the restaurant received the Design Icon Award in celebration of its remarkable home.

In hiring Ms. Ibrahim, Canlis will continue to look to Asia for culinary inspiration.

Born Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim in the southern Philippines, Ms. Ibrahim immigrated to West Virginia at the age of 6. (She is the fourth executive chef at Canlis with Asian heritage.) She attended college on a basketball scholarship, but when an injury ended her sports career, she applied to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco.

Ms. Ibrahim worked her way up through Bay Area kitchens to become a sous chef at Manresa, the three-Michelin-star restaurant in Los Gatos, Calif., before moving to the Basque region of Spain in 2015 to work for the chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi. Ms. Ibrahim went on to become chef de cuisine at Aziamendi, Azurmendi’s sister restaurant in southern Thailand.

Before joining Canlis, she spent two years preparing to open her own fine-dining project in Bangkok, which was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Ibrahim’s partner, Samantha Beaird, will join the staff at Canlis, too, in the newly created position of research and development chef.

Ms. Ibrahim said that she was drawn to Seattle for the unparalleled quality of ingredients from the forests, fisheries and farms of the Pacific Northwest. She plans to spend her time at Canlis exploring the region’s Indigenous ingredients, the nuances of its microseasons and the city’s historic role as a gateway to Asia.

Ms. Ibrahim admitted to being surprised to find herself back in the United States, having sworn off the country’s brutal kitchen culture for jobs in Spain and Thailand, which have afforded her a more balanced lifestyle.

What to Cook This Week

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • One of the best things about Melissa Clark’s chile-roasted chicken with honey, lemon and feta is the sweet-and-sour drippings in the pan.
    • Yewande Komolafe’s glazed tofu with chile and star anise is a take on the technique behind Sichuan hui guo rou, or twice-cooked pork.
    • Mark Bittman’s shrimp burgers are perfect with mayonnaise, mixed with Texas Pete hot sauce and plenty of lime juice.
    • This spring-vegetable japchae from Kay Chun is made with the Korean sweet-potato noodles known as glass noodles.
    • Millie Peartree’s brown stew chicken is built on a base of store-bought browning sauce, a caramel-hued burnt sugar concoction.

    “Fine dining in the United States has burned out my generation of leadership to the point where we’re asking, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ” she said. “But Canlis is very much a people-first program. I’ve been around the block in terms of working at high-end restaurants, and that’s not at all common.”

    After a pair of Zoom interviews for the job, Ms. Ibrahim flew from Bangkok to Seattle — her second-ever visit to the city — to prepare a seven-course meal that sealed the deal. Mark Canlis described her cooking as simple, understated and sophisticated. “Her food was an invitation in,” he said. “It wasn’t flexing or showmanship.”

    The chefs at Canlis have always been like honorary family members, Mr. Canlis said, and hiring a new one can feel “like adding a sibling.” Cooking skills are just the table stakes.

    “What makes Aisha the best chef for this restaurant has to do with caring for people, leading people and creating a culture,” he said. “Everyone has a desire to build a better industry, but she’s already living that kind of life, and invested in people in the kind of way that inspires us.”

    The leadership change comes on the heels of a year that has been the most turbulent, but creatively fertile, in the restaurant’s history. Casting about for ways to keep their staff employed during the pandemic, the Canlis brothers have busied the team delivering meals around Seattle, serving burgers and bagels from the restaurant’s parking lot, and hosting virtual bingo shows.

    Currently, guests can dine on a $145 four-course menu served in 12 private yurts (plus one “treehouse,” on the restaurant’s roof), or come for cold beers, brisket and Frito pie at the Canteen, a counter-service smokehouse set up in the parking lot. (Reservations for both are currently sold out.) Mr. Canlis said that he hopes to return to indoor service in July.


    Everything You Need to Know About Geoducks

    From microscopic plankton to intimidating, deep sea lantern fish, the creatures that live in the ocean are as varied and unfamiliar as if they lived on another planet. Among these strange looking alien creatures, the geoduck of the Northwest Coastal U.S. has earned a reputation as one of the weirdest looking (it might make you blush) and most delicious mollusks to meet the American plate. Here, now, is a primer on this sand burrowing bivalve.

    First off, it's pronounced "gooey duck." Contrary to what one might think, it's not related to a duck at all. The Nisqually — a Native American tribe located in western Washington — coined the term gweduc, meaning "dig deep" and referring to the way this bivalve burrows far below the seafloor. Europeans later reinterpreted the native spelling and pronunciation.

    Geoduck is a large clam with simple anatomy. There are two major parts to remember: the siphon or neck, which hangs out of the shell, and the mantle (also called breast), the meaty part that sits inside the shell. Native to the Pacific Northwest and Western Canadian coast, g eoducks anchor themselves into the ground with a small "foot," and remain in one spot for their entire lives. Several feet below ground, the massive saltwater clam sucks in seawater, filtering for plankton and precious vitamins, and squirts out the excess through its impressive siphon. Their necks easily stretch from banana to baseball lengths, depending on how comfortably situated they are (they're happiest and longest when they're underground).

    The geoduck is the world's largest burrowing clam, and typical specimens weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. It's far too big to retreat to its shell like other mollusks instead, the massive neck promiscuously hangs outside in all its phallic glory. Since the geoduck burrows below the floor, you can tell you're in the presence of a geoduck when you spot two of its siphon holes peeping up from the ground. George Young, author of The Rewards of Scuba Hunting, likens the sight to staring down into a double barrel shotgun.

    So, what does it taste like?

    Geoduck meat is sweet and clear in taste. Seattle-based chef Ethan Stowell features geoduck seasonally at Goldfinch and How to Cook a Wolf. "It's definitely unique to the Northwest, and I think we should be proud of it," Stowell says. "It's a raw clam, and it's as sweet as it gets for something that comes from the ocean."

    A delicate, crunchy texture distinguishes the geoducks from other mollusks too. "When it's raw, it has that crunchy clam quality that I think is very unique to the geoduck," Brandon Jew, San Francisco-based chef and owner of Master Jiu's, says. "Because of how dense the trunk is, when you cut it very thin on the bias, you get a specific kind of snap when you bite into it."

    And if the texture and taste aren't enough to please, these wrinkly creatures are also heralded as aphrodisiacs — especially in China. Scientific explanations for these unique properties are few and far between. (Maybe they just spark love because it's nearly impossible to look at a geoduck and not think of a penis.)

    Why does everyone freak out about them?

    Wouldn't you? Phallic and extreme in appearance, a geoduck looks like something in between a prehistoric bottom-feeder and Jabba the Hutt's infant grandchild. Siphons can grow up to three feet in length, and a shell can reach football proportions. With lifespans up to 150 years, geoducks are also one of the longest-living animals in the world, adding to their intrigue.

    Geoduck comes at a high price the sought-after delicacy is sold in U.S. markets for 20 to 30 dollars a pound. "When you put it pound for pound, it's three times as expensive as foie gras," Stowell says. "It's definitely a specialty item."

    The geoduck may be fairly obscure throughout the United States, but in the Pacific Northwest, geoduck occupies cult status and people adore the geoduck with great relish. Speedy the Geoduck is the mascot of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and supposedly represents the essence of Evergreen: "accessible to all who are willing to dig deep." Evergreen's inspiring battle cry goes like this:

    Go, Geoducks, go,

    Through the mud and the sand, let's go,

    Siphon high, squirt it out, swivel all about,

    Let it all hang out!

    The giant clam has inspired other sorts of tributes as well. The mockumentary Love Mussel features Kevin Smith as a dedicated journalist covering the story of a New Zealand town that discovers its local harvest, geoduck, harbors unique Viagra-like properties. Geoduck has also been featured on Good Mythical Morning's segment "Will It Chocolate?" (see 9:10), Top Chef, Bizarre Foods, and Dirty Jobs.

    How are geoducks harvested?

    Geoduck harvesting is a visceral process. Workers wade into cold, muddy Pacific waters only to wrestle with muscular mollusks reluctant to leave their homes. According to Modern Farmer, many geoduck farmers use high pressure water hoses to harvest geoducks. A blast of water into the sandy substrate geoducks call home loosens the sand and dislodges a geoduck from its stronghold. At this point, the harvester thrusts their arm into the hole they've created and uproots the giant clam. Geoduck hunting is something of a recreational sport in Washington, and hunters use garden shovels and plastic digging tubes to uncover clams in the wild — there's even a song about it .

    Geoduck harvests represent an $80 million a year industry for Washington state and the Province of British Columbia, The Rewards of Scuba Hunting notes . The clam is exported by the hundreds of thousands of pounds — representing more than 90 percent of the U.S. industry harvest — to Southeast Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) each year, where it's heralded as a delicacy, specialty item, and aphrodisiac.

    But geoduck aquaculture is controversial, and industry growth with current techniques isn't sustainable, University of Washington scientists have reported. Geoduck farms utilize the state's natural coastlines, and baby geoducks are "planted" inside protective PVC pipes that stud the coast and disturb its habitats. High-pressure jet harvesting breaks up the natural substrate, traumatizing an increasingly delicate ecology and shoreline. Efforts to improve sustainability within the industry include studying off-the-ground or contained system farming techniques.

    KBCS 91.3 Community Radio/Flickr

    Taylor Shellfish geoduck farming in the Puget Sound

    How is geoduck prepared?

    Before you cook a geoduck, you have to properly clean it. "They're actually very easy to clean," chef Brandon Jew says. "It's a quick blanch, and then you basically pull off the outer membrane. You can pretty much slice it and serve it from there."

    As far as the U.S. goes, wide consumption of the behemoth clam is largely limited to the Pacific Northwest, stretching occasionally to the West Coast. Seattle-based chef John Sundstrom serves geoduck raw, or prepared in ceviche. It's also prepared in sushi, chowder, crudo, and even pie. Taylor Shellfish (the largest shellfish operation in the PNW) suggests using geoduck in a bright, minty salad .

    In Japan, geoduck is called mirugai ("giant clam") and used for sashimi and sushi. Korean chefs also frequently serve it raw, with hot chili sauce, or in fiery soups and stir-fries. In China, where its name — innocently — translates to "elephant trunk," geoduck is enjoyed in hot pots. One fresh geoduck can fetch up to $300 at a high-end Chinese restaurant, BBC News reports .

    Geoducks for sale at a Hong Kong seafood restaurant

    "You could find geoduck on a few menus back in the old days [25 years ago], we'll call it, when I first got [to Seattle]," John Sundstrom, chef and owner of Lark, says. "I feel like they weren't that prevalent unless you were going to primarily sushi bars or Japanese restaurants. But it's a wonderful ingredient that really speaks to the [Pacific Northwest], and I think chefs are more interested in it and getting creative with it. Around the country, I've been noticing, seeing it on menus now, and that's great."


    4. Virginia Haze (Fyve Restaurant, The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Va.)

    Mixologist Stephanie Southerland is debuting a series of cocktails that are smoked with autumn and wintry scents. Catoctin Creek Roundstone rye whiskey and Grand Mariner meet smoked cinnamon sticks and walnut bitters for an unmistakably wintry feel in this aptly named drink.


    First Look Inside Nittaya’s Little Kitchen, Opening Soon in Centennial

    The long awaited new restaurant from chef and owner Nittaya Parawong is almost ready to debut in Centennial Hills, missing a planned May 16 opening date, but promising it will begin serving Parawong’s famed Thai menu very soon.

    The restaurant takes over a 1,495-square-foot corner plot at the Village at Centennial Springs near Cheecho’s Fajitas & Cantina and Streets of New York at the intersection of Norman Rockwell Lane and Farm Road, a short distance from a very popular Egg Works expansion.

    Part of Nittaya’s Little Kitchen dining room Facebook

    Designed as a neighborhood destination, the interior space was originally estimated to host a maximum of 46 customers in the dining room and include six seats at the bar. New images shared by the restaurant reveal an outdoor patio space with its own bar window.

    Nittaya’s Little Kitchen outdoor patio Facebook

    The Summerlin fixture since 2010 Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen moved around the corner earlier this year into the 3,833-square-foot former home of Sushi Wabi, close to the intersection of Lake Mead and Rampart boulevards. Parawong also still oversees the counter-service Block 9 Thai Street Eats in south Summerlin.

    Still to announce future opening hours and its new menu, Nittaya’s Little Kitchen is expected to serve many of the same Thai family recipes and wine list favorites found at the original location.


    Tea Cup ($)
    Tea, Coffee Shop, Bakery, Cafe

    Ordered some breakfast items great service and great food.
    Just remember cash or check only here. read more

    Was seated outside quickly. The food was real good but service was horrible. The waitress gave us tortilla chips as we were seated but I had to ask 3. read more

    Your FIRED ! Sorry Pizza ! Short on ingredients a big rip off. Ordered the new pan pizza. Ordered everything for toppings. Got very little instead. T. read more

    The Teacup has been making our Birthday cakes since they opened. Always fresh and moist, they are simply outstanding. Pies are wonderful, Their White . read more

    Taco bell should be open until 2am. even if it is Taylorsville. ..keep up with the times . read more


    Uchiko's Ben Hightower Hired As New TRACE Chef

    With founding Chef de Cuisine Paul Hargrove shuffling out at the W Hotel's TRACE back in April, the downtown fancy-pants restaurant has hired Uchiko's Ben Hightower to take over the position. Per a press release sent this afternoon:

    W Austin Hotel Announces Ben Hightower as New Chef de Cuisine of Trace

    Chef Hightower Brings Passion of Simple, Fresh Flavors to W Austin’s Signature Restaurant

    Austin, TX – [May 14, 2012] — W Austin today announced the appointment of Ben Hightower as new Chef de Cuisine of Trace, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Chef Hightower will begin his post later this month implementing a new menu that will feature his creative, inspired dishes.

    "We’re thrilled to welcome Chef Hightower to Trace at W Austin,” said Sean Bradshaw, W Austin Director of Beverage and Food. “Ben brings a fresh, new perspective to our culinary repertoire that celebrates responsibility and sustainability, and we look forward to infusing his immense passion into the menu and restaurant atmosphere.”

    Hightower began his career in New York training at the Culinary Institute of America, moving to Café Centro/Beer Bar and then W New York – Times Square, where he worked as executive sous chef at Blue Fin. Most recently, Hightower served as executive sous chef at the much buzzed about Austin restaurant, Uchiko, working under acclaimed Owner/Chef Tyson Cole as well as recent Top Chef champ and Uchiko Executive Chef Paul Qui.

    Chef Hightower, who now rejoins W Hotels, describes his culinary style as, “simple, delicious and well-balanced, with dishes informed by what’s freshest. Each dish should be greater than the sum of its parts, with each taste creating anticipation for the next.”

    “As chef de cuisine at Trace,” concluded Hightower, “I will get to work amongst this group of extraordinary talents, in the heart of Austin’s burgeoning 2nd Street district, right next door to ACL Live. What a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow as a chef and be inspired by everything around me.”

    W Austin General Manager Drew McQuade added, “Austin is a culinary destination, and as a part of that community, we are thrilled to have a talented chef of Ben’s caliber creating new and exciting menus for our guests at Trace.”


    The Return of Seattle's Greatest Chef

    E ven if you've been eating sushi all your life, you'll never know as much as Shiro Kashiba.

    Kashiba, born in Kyoto in 1941, began apprenticing with Tokyo sushi masters when he was 19 years old. Eventually he immigrated to the United States and, in 1970, set up Seattle's first full-service sushi bar at Maneki, one of the city's oldest restaurants. Kashiba opened his first restaurant, Nikko, in the International District in 1972, where, for nearly two decades, he introduced scores of local diners to Japanese cuisine. For another 20 years, he stood behind the sushi bar at his Belltown restaurant, Shiro's, which he left in 2014 after selling it to new owners.

    For more than 50 years, Kashiba has fished and foraged in the waters and mountains of Puget Sound. He pioneered and popularized sushi made from local seafood such as geoduck, smelt, albacore tuna, and salmon, including its roe, which he first procured for free from fishermen on Seattle's waterfront in the 1960s. Kashiba couldn't stand to see the roe, which was either thrown away or used as bait, go to waste. Now the briny, squishy, coral-colored eggs, known as ikura, are prized ingredients. Kashiba became such a beloved local figure that the entire city calls him simply, affectionately, by his first name.

    So when you sit down at the sushi counter or a table at Shiro's new restaurant, Sushi Kashiba, open since last November and perched above the fish vendors of Pike Place Market, the smartest thing you can do is surrender to his lifetime of knowledge and order the omakase sushi dinner (the price changes based on the market prices and availability two weeks ago the meal cost $95 per person).

    Omakase, from the Japanese characters meaning "entrust," puts you entirely in a chef's hands. At Sushi Kashiba, omakase means a leisurely, multicourse dinner of a broad array of the freshest seafood available, prepared and presented with a variety of techniques, and lightly seasoned to highlight the natural flavors of each fish.

    Food at Sushi Kashiba will taste exquisite whether you're sitting at the sushi bar, in the small dining room, or the lounge. But if you're lucky enough to secure seats at the sushi counter, each course will be served to you by Shiro-san himself, along with a generous helping of his benevolent expertise and humor. (Because of high demand, the sushi bar is seated exclusively on a first come, first served basis. Plan to get there before the doors open at 5 p.m., or be prepared to wait. Either way, plan to be there for a few hours—don't worry, it will all be worth it.)

    Our meal began with four slabs of tuna, each on rectangles of perfectly cooked and seasoned rice: local albacore, a beautiful blush color blue fin, a robust shade of rose bluefin belly, pale pink and marbled through with white fat and bigeye tuna, a deep magenta.

    "I have already seasoned these with soy sauce and wasabi," Shiro-san told us, explaining that at sushi restaurants in Japan, chefs prepare their own nikiri, a light, seasoned soy sauce that they flavor pieces of nigiri with before serving. He showed us his own sauce and stirred it gently with a brush.

    "And there is already salt and sugar in the rice," he added, his message friendly but firm: Don't even think of reaching for the containers of soy sauce on the counter, the tuna tastes exactly as it should.

    "Okay, ready, big bite, one bite—go ahead," he said, waving his hand and signaling that it was time to begin eating.

    Each piece of tuna tasted clean and clear, and felt cool and lush in the mouth. The albacore was bright, while the bluefin belly, or toro, melted away and lolled around slowly on the tongue. The bigeye tuna, which had been marinated, was made meatier by an umami-rich, slightly sweet sauce. It reminded me a bit of the flavor of jerky, but without any trace of dryness or toughness.

    Many other courses followed. Two kinds of amberjack: buttery hamachi served alongside kanpachi, the flavor of which was comparatively light. Squid—the body and legs served as two separate nigiri, each with a completely different texture: The long white body was delicate and soft, while the purple-tinged, curlicue legs were pleasantly chewy. Snow crab and king crab were both wonderfully sweet, but served together, the snow crab seemed stringy and fibrous compared to the succulent mound of king meat. A trio of shellfish, all imbued with briny and dulcet flavors: a single translucent spot prawn, served with its deep-fried head ("Eat the head first! Before it gets cold!") an ultra-sweet scallop, so soft it felt like someone had gently laid their tongue on top of mine and a thin slice of geoduck, firm with an ever-so-slight crunch.

    Omakase menus change daily based on what's in season, what's available, or maybe even who happens to be sitting next to you at dinner. As in life, every day is different, and no meal is exactly the same. An omakase dinner is expensive, but here, as it progresses, its value becomes incalculable. Several courses featured different varieties of the same fish, some from different parts of the world, all served next to each other on the same wooden board. Eating them in progression allows you to experience the range of flavors and possibilities that reside within a single family of fish.

    Wild sockeye salmon from the Pacific Northwest is deep crimson, almost purple, and tastes as rich as it does muscular. Right next to it, a slab of king salmon, brought in from the frigid waters of Scotland, looked flimsy and mild: pale and peach-colored, wearing a dainty little belt of seaweed that affixed a thin slice of pickled onion to its flesh. But as soon as I bit into it, I was caught off guard by its inherent oiliness, enhanced by the light citrus sauce Shiro-san had brushed onto it, and swept into an all-consuming moment of pleasure.

    A quartet of what Shiro-san called "blue-skin fishes"—three types of mackerel and herring—was stunning. I happen to love the strong, fishy taste of mackerel, and the Spanish variety (which actually comes from Japan), while still unmistakably mackerel, held just a whisper of those typical characteristics. The sturdier flesh of Norwegian mackerel, on the other hand, was much more pungent. A piece of king mackerel, brought in from Florida, had been lightly smoked, which firmed up the meat and gave it a darker, smoldering flavor. A long, thin filet of Alaskan herring was pickled, giving it beautiful vinegary tang. It was served skin side up, so you could admire its silver sheen and dark gray speckles.

    In a city with both strong Scandinavian and Japanese histories, Shiro-san's pickled herring was an unexpected, contemporary, and playful salute to the region. It was the epitome of a philosophy he laid out in his moving memoir, Shiro: Wit, Wisdom & Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer (Chin Music Press, 2011): "[It's] about preserving tradition, but it's also about infusing that tradition with fresh life."

    Typically when I go out for sushi, my order tends to be predictable—I stick with what I know and like. But while seated across the bar from a man with a lifetime's worth of knowledge of so many fishes from around the world, it was one of the most gratifying and freeing feelings to admit I knew nothing at all.

    If not for Shiro-san, how else would I have discovered my love of flounder wing, something I had never even heard of before? As he wielded a blowtorch over a set of firm-looking pieces of white fish, giving them bubbly, charred blisters, I asked what we were having next.

    "I will tell you after you eat it," Shiro-san replied. "You will like it, I am sure."

    The flounder was unlike any sushi I'd had before, utterly creamy and soft. It immediately filled my mouth up with its warm fat and smoke, then, just as quickly, it vanished. It will haunt me until I get to have it again. Shiro-san was, of course, right.

    Shiro Kashiba is in his mid-70s, and to watch him work is to see a man both fully at ease and in complete control of his powers. He slices fish and molds grains of rice with effortless precision, all while keeping a watchful eye on the dining room, giving instructions to the front- and back-of-house staffs, and cheerfully bantering with diners. His mastery is not only one of sushi making, but of communicating and establishing a rapport with people. He exudes the quiet confidence and happiness that comes only with experience and age. There is a simplicity to his words that belies the depth of thoughtfulness and knowledge behind it.

    Shiro's staff of sushi chefs, servers, and hosts are in constant, quiet motion—seating diners, managing the wait list, making sushi, running food. Behind the sushi bar, the chef directly to Shiro's right anticipates all of his needs, slicing fish and passing them to him stealthily so service can continue smoothly.

    Front-of-house service here is seamless and formal, but always warm and gracious. A water glass will never sit unfilled—in fact, it will never get less than halfway full, but you'll likely never notice that anyone even came by with a pitcher. There's an impressive amount of teamwork, attention, and communication happening at Sushi Kashiba—and everyone respectfully defers to Shiro-san, diners included.

    As part of a recent omakase dinner, Shiro-san deftly filled sheets of toasted nori with cucumber, shiso, and delicious custardy, golden-orange uni. He rolled them into objects reminiscent of savory ice-cream cones and handed them across the bar to diners. "Eat quickly, while the seaweed is still crunchy, before it gets soft," he instructed us. "Take big bites!"

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    He laughed, noting that many of his customers aren't used to doing this, having been taught their whole lives to eat slowly and take small bites. "Food is culture," he said, "and it is different everywhere you go."

    Seattle is lucky to continue to have our culture shaped by Shiro Kashiba.


    Share All sharing options for: Magazine Creates Fake Restaurant to Show How Easy It Is to Post False Reviews on TripAdvisor

    TripAdvisor, like Yelp, is plagued with issues of users posting fake reviews. The Independent writes that Italian magazine Italia a Tavola decided to "reveal alleged flaws in the asking system which they say leave [TripAdvisor] vulnerable to fraudulent reviews." To do this, the magazine created an imaginary restaurant on the site called Ristorante Scaletta and added 10 fake, perfectly-scored reviews to the listing.

    In less than a month, the non-existent restaurant was rated the best restaurant in Moniga del Gara. Italia a Tavola notes (translated) that Ristorante Scaletta even beat out another restaurant that features a pricey tasting menu and has over 300 reviews (201 of which mark the restaurant as excellent). The magazine believes that this shows the system is flawed. When the publication contacted TripAdvisor abut their experiment, the listing for the restaurant "was immediately removed."

    TripAdvisor denied to the Independent that their system needs work. A spokesperson tells the paper, "It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us." The spokesperson adds, "We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace," and that this situation is "completely different." The site's response hasn't stopped Italia a Tavola which has started a campaign to force TripAdvisor to only allow comments if the user can provide a photo of receipt proving they dined at the restaurant.