I had high hopes for Genki Sushi, the new conveyor belt sushi joint that opened above QFC in lower Queen Anne.  Unfortunately, the conveyor never brought me what I was looking for: really good sushi.  The staff was very friendly and attentive, though I blushed with sympathy as I was greeted with a clearly rehearsed-in-front-of-the-mirror Japanese greeting forced out of the poor ex-barista (I’m guessing) who seated us.  Like the outside of the Lumen building, there was an unfinished je ne sais quoi about Genki that made it feel more like an airport terminal and less like a sushi bar.  But I wasn’t there for the architecture; I was there to snipe sushi off of a moving belt and stack my plates into a tower of phallic proportions. 

Alas, as the lidded plates rode by, I realized I would have no such fishy conquest that night.  There’s a saying that you eat with your eyes first.  That, I would argue, is never more true than with sushi: it is an inescapably artistic cuisine, normally planned and executed with a meticulous eye towards form, balance and beauty.  But the cross sections of room-temperature maki that passed before me had no such vitality.  The muted colors and careless arrangement of each plate foreshadowed the mostly mediocre food that followed. 

To be fair, I will say that the salmon and cream cheese roll (I know, real sushi snobs will tell you this is not sushi) was OK.  But the rest was far below par, particularly  in a city like Seattle with its blossoming, progressive Japanese cuisine. 

I do wish the best for Genki Sushi, but for now, I’ll have to do my raw fish sniping elsewhere.

Genki Sushi on Urbanspoon

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My expectations were set high for Moshi Moshi (yet another) sushi bar on Ballard Avenue’s busy block of boutiques and bars.  Needless to say, Moshi Moshi delivered on its promise of traditional Japanese cuisine mixed in with Pacific Northwest-inspired creations.  If you’re planning on visiting, don’t bother looking for a sign outside – it doesn’t exist, at least not yet.  Instead, look for the diffuse, cool glow of the restaurant’s imposing metal and LED cherry blossom tree, a central feature of the restaurant’s design.  At its base, a wrap-around bar (sushi on one side, drinks on the other) welcomes walk-ins.  The constant dance of sushi chefs and bartenders moving between their ingredients and eager customers stirs up a constant swirl energy that permeates the atmosphere.  This place is definitely buzzing.

With good reason, too.  Although sushi is their staple, the formidable page of starters and small bites simply cannot be overlooked.  My personal favorite was a grilled oyster with spicy miso cream ($2/each, pictured top left).  Also impressive was their selection of shioyaki: salt grilled fish and meat.  I tried the waygu beef loin with soy salt ($14.50, pictured middle left), which was just the type of pungent flavorful dish I had been hoping to find.

Moshi Moshi’s fish selection is extremely fresh, and as diverse as its menu.  I could only identify about 60% of the fish in my Omakase (chef’s discretion, prices vary, pictured top right), and I consider myself to be a bit of a sushi snob.  

An unfortunate disappointment was a lack of creativity in Moshi Moshi’s “new style” maki sushi rolls.  I’m a fan of the type of inventive interpretation you’ll see at places like Mashiko and Umi Sake House, and I had high hopes for clever suprises at Moshi Moshi.  With the exception of a self-titled roll, the rest were predictable and even a bit pedestrian, especially when compared to the diversity found elsewhere on the menu. 

All told, I believe Moshi Moshi has a bright future in Ballard.  I look forward to eating my way through the rest of their menu, and perhaps claiming a new happy hour hangout.  $4 maki and $1 edamame?  Count me in!

Moshi Moshi Sushi on Urbanspoon

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