Diners are in capable hands in both the liquid and sushi bars at Ballard's Moshi Moshi Sushi
Well-made drinks and some sushi dishes to write home about are featured at Moshi Moshi Sushi in Ballard.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Grilled shishito peppers||$4|
|Whole grilled Norwegian mackerel||$11|
|flat iron steak||$19|
Moshi Moshi SushiJapanese
5324 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle
Hours: 4:30-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3-10 p.m. Sundays; early and late happy hours daily.
Prices: $$ (sushi/sashimi $3.50-$24; hot food $2-$19)
Drinks: Full bar, sake, wine, beer.
Parking: Landmark Public Parking garage, entrance on Leary Way, $1 per hour (elevator connects to restaurant).
Who should go: Nigiri nuts, maki mavens, sports fans and spirits seekers.
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, AmEx.
Access: No obstacles to ground floor and restrooms; stairs to mezzanine.
If you've traversed Ballard Avenue after dark, you can't miss Moshi Moshi Sushi: a faux cherry tree, its broad branches lit with hundreds of pink LED blossoms, towers two- stories high inside.
The tree divides yin from yang at the dual-personality restaurant: On one side is the sushi bar, on the other the liquor bar. Of course, you can enjoy a cocktail or sushi on either side of that monumental divide — as well as up in the mezzanine, cozy as a treehouse in the blooms' rosy glow. Where you sit depends on the ambience you desire.
Nigiri nuts and maki mavens, hang a left and park under the paper lanterns at the 10-seat sushi bar. If you've come with the kids (many do) or with a crowd, you'll want a table along the wooden-bench banquettes that hug the wall under pretty parasols.
Spirits seekers and sports fans turn right into the bar, a stroller-free zone with booth and counter seating as well as multiple TV screens that aren't visible from the sushi-bar side.
Your favorite sports team may let you down, but Moshi's manager and chief bartender Erik Carlson and his squad won't. The bar's cache includes house-made bitters and tinctures, spice-infused syrups like falernum and orgeat, as well as premium sakes and of-the-moment vermouths like Carpano and Dolin.
The lengthy cocktail list recently segued from spring into summer (well ahead of the weather). Lighter, fruitier concoctions — whips and sours, punches and fizzes — join perennials like "Liquid Swords," a smooth blend of rye and cherry brandy with a strong orange undertow that offers solace on a soggy day.
You're in capable hands at the sushi bar, too, where sushi chefs Nick-san and Hiro-san take turns presiding. Nick-san's animated eyebrows are as mesmerizing as his knife skills. His pleasing compositions of color and texture taste as bright and fresh as they look.
A bountiful sushi/sashimi assortment included bluefin and albacore tuna, Atlantic and sockeye salmon, yellowtail, snapper, escolar and octopus. Too bad run-of-the-mill tekkamaki subbed for the promised ume shiso roll, which would have been a more interesting element. Miso soup never arrived, but the fish was first rate.
Nick-san fusses over composed nigiri. I tried the lively, lemon-and-ginger-spiked toro tartare wrapped in nori and crowned with vibrant orange tongues of sea urchin. You should, too.
Among the two dozen sushi rolls, I can recommend the Sophie-san (tempura shrimp, cucumber and avocado), notable for its crunchy interior and soft-pink coverlet of spicy snow crab. Shiso, scallion and lemon rouse the scallop-topped Moshi Moshi roll, stuffed with king crab and cucumber.
Oshizushi, or pressed sushi rolls, are a highlight. No nori, just rice and fillings pressed in a rectangular mold. The terrific tuna tataki version has crunchy gobo and radish sprouts in the middle. Red-hot momji radish (grated daikon mixed with red pepper) dots the seared albacore lying on top. It's finished with a generous squirt of ponzu.
Beyond sushi there's a variety of hot foods, from grilled bites (yakimono) and fried stuff to noodle dishes and even a shiitake-crusted flat iron steak. These are the purview of Kevin Erickson (who, with his wife, Tracy, owns both Moshi Moshi and Bricco on Queen Anne).
Look for slender, green, grill- blistered shishito peppers with lemon and salt, and wonderful pan-fried gyoza stuffed with gingery pork, beef and mushrooms. Kalbi ribs and a whole Norwegian mackerel were both heavily blackened but could take the extra char.
The steak's finely minced shiitake crust was far from crusty, but a wasabi cream sauce mightily flattered the juicy, robust beef, ably supported by fresh steamed asparagus and a golden-brown potato croquette.
Skip the dull and dreary fried chicken nuggets (tori kara age). Tempura vegetables, so light and lovely on one visit, turned up soggy on another; tempura ice cream was dreadful.
For dessert, try the exotic lychee panna cotta instead. Or better yet, have another cocktail.
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