When thinking about style, food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for most. But for jaded food nerds like me, I think style is a huge part of the experience. Take for instance a restaurant; ambiance, vibe, crowd, presentation, and design all have a role – and style can enrich that experience. Which brings us to sushi. More than any other style of food, sushi has style. It’s reflected in the design of the rolls, nigiri, and sashimi. The sushi master has an opportunity to impart his personal flair onto the food. The colors, textures, and shapes create the canvas and tools for their art. It’s quite the experience and this past weekend, we went to Shiku in Ballard for sushi and indulged in style presented by Johnny and his team.
Shiku has a prime spot along Ballard Ave, which has been open for about three months now, but it wasn’t until this weekend we had a chance to visit. We love sushi. One of purest ways to experience food, it plays on your palate, introduces you to new stuff, and challenges you. I’ll always remember this one experience at the old Nikko’s in the Westin with some friends; we loved our lunch so much we were ready to stand up and start clapping. We had that good of a time. If you love sushi, you know what I’m talking about.
So armed with this love, we went into Shiku on some good reviews, a love of sushi, and a special occasion. Stepping into Shiku, you’ll notice the room; open, with a bar to your left, the sushi bar in the back left corner, and the layout. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the dining room is very dark. This stylistic take creates a dim and sexy vibe that will lull you in. And the sushi team wore fedoras! Kind of fun and a nice fashionable touch, the rebirth of cool for the sushi experience.
We were fortunate to have a seat at the sushi bar. This is a tip for any sushi lover, when available always try to sit at the sushi bar. You get to talk with the sushi masters and watch the drama unfold. It’s like theatre to see sushi get created. You see how they handle a knife, create the dishes, and note the reverence they hold to the work they are creating. It’s breathtaking.
Style is definitely a big part of the experience at Shiku, but the style was balanced out by the service and friendliness of the staff. Attentive and friendly, quick to point out highlights of the menu, they were great. But hats off goes to Johnny, the man behind the counter at Shiku. The dude was awesome. Friendly and focused, he went out of his way to make sure we had a good time. He made the effort to learn our names, ask what brought us in, making sure we were comfortable. We loved this. While we were waiting for our party he made a special lobster roll to hold us over! On the house! A nice little touch that was deeply appreciated.
The izakaya menu had some great little touches as well. Here were the highlights:
- Edamame with togarashi and garlic – This was excellent, the togarashi added a ton of heat and the garlic added the flavor. I thought this was a creative touch that separates Shiku from the field by not just doing the standard edamame with sea salt.
- Vegetable tempura – The highlight of this was the tempura shiso leaf. Shiso is a delicate little leaf that is akin to basil or mint. The fact that it got the tempura treatment was an eye opener. Another excellent starter.
- Kakuni pork- This was recommended by our server, and we were glad to take her suggestion. Tender, rich and fatty, it was a good representation of the glory of pork.
- Pan-roasted Halibut cheeks – I love halibut cheeks, such a nice texture and flavor, Shiku was able to amp up the dish with a browned butter mushroom ragout.
Ultimately, Shiku is a sushi place and they brought the goods with it. The menu was loaded with a ton of creative rolls that we had to try. And of course we had nigiri. A handroll too. After ordering, we liked that the rolls and nigiri came out to us in a timely manner. Sushi has a chance to be very deliberate with timing, but Shiku was quite swift. They didn’t sacrifice their presentation however. Still beautiful, interpretative, and the layout was visually stunning. I could go on and on about the sushi, but here is a quick list of what we loved:
- Sashimi roll – This was a creative one, pieces of fish, wrapped by thin slices of cucumber. This hit of freshness was a good touch and it was visually stunning.
- Ninja roll – This is a spicy tuna roll that’s been turned up to 11. Dusted and lightly fried with panko, the soft crunch was great.
- Bruce Lee roll – An amalgamation of flavor, it had this great topping of spicy mayo, jalapeño, albacore, shrimp tempura and more
Nigiri – what I loved about the nigiri, was these great little color touches on some of the rolls, in some cases it was this streak of wasabi on top of the fish. Nice visual flair. Here is what we had
- Scallops – This is our stand-by for nigiri. We’ll always order it; as it’s texture and sweetness is always appreciated. Good on ya Shiku
- Salmon – These massive pieces of Alaskan king were melt in your mouth delights.
- Toro – The king of nigiri. Toro is the fattiest part of tuna and isn’t on a menu all of the time due to seasonality. Pink and massive, this was excellent.
- Hamachi – Also known as yellowtail, I love this fish. It’s great when you see grilled Hamachi collar on a menu, but as nigiri, this shimmery white fish’s pronounced flavor was glorified
- Squid – This was an unexpected surprise. It was a piece of the squid steak that was been crosscut to reduce a bit of the toughness. It was accompanied by a hit of lime and a shiso leaf to create this interplay of all the ingredients into an excellent piece of sushi.
We definitely had a great time at Shiku. They hit a home run in all aspects of the experience. Personal touches to everything we had, dessert on the house, service that was exemplary. We look forward to other visits, but upon first impression, Shiku has the chance to be our favorite place for sushi in Seattle.