A single piece of Michael Black and Danny Dunham’s tuna sushi is enough to obliterate the myth that you should turn and run if you see a white guy behind a sushi bar. In fact, each slice of ruby-red flesh erases another persistent falsehood: that fresh-off-the-boat fish is always best. The fastidious chefs develop the flavor and improve the texture of their tuna by aging it for almost two weeks before serving it. Add to that their eagerness to chat about seafood seasonality and rice cooking, and it’s no wonder the city’s connoisseurs flock to the Hayes Valley neighborhood and wait an hour for one of the six seats at the bar.
17 Hayes St., 415-864-2122
Masaharu Morimoto didn’t make his name serving sushi. The Iron Chef and international restaurateur is best known for tuna pizza, masala-spiced lobster, and other dishes that brazenly push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine. Yet at the bar of his downtown restaurantheaded by Hiroki Fujiyama and occasionally blessed with the presence of the ponytailed TV star himselfyou’ll find intricately fashioned sushi featuring rice polished on the premises and soy sauce mellowed with a bit of dashi (a kelp- and fish-based stock) so as not to overwhelm the delicate needlefish or salmon roe, which is house-marinated.
723 Chestnut St., 215-413-9070
Don’t let the menu’s roster of teriyaki, tempura, and Nobu-style fusion dishes throw you off: Tatsu Nishino’s sushi is not an afterthought. Order some at his restaurant way out in Madison Park and you’ll get superior rice dabbed with fresh wasabi and topped with, say, amaebidainty ocean-sweet shrimp that are served raw. An omakase (chef’s-choice) meal might bring a hand roll of silky yellowtail, crunchy burdock root, and a crisp spear of avocado tempura, which a purist would sneer atbut only until he tasted it.
3130 E. Madison St., 206-322-5800
Arguments rage over which of Seattle’s many estimable sushiyas deserve top billing. What makes this Belltown classic a contender is its namesake, Shiro Kashiba. One of the patriarchs of the city’s raw-fish revolution, the affable sexagenarian chef still doles out superb sushi (just avoid the busy, Americanized rolls) and plenty of piscine wisdom. His locally sourced picks, like shrimp and geoduck from nearby Puget Sound, show him at the top of his game, but his inspiringly simple ume-shiso hand roll made of rice, seaweed, tart pickled plum, and minty shiso is also worthy of a following.
2401 2nd Ave., 206-443-9844
Enthusiasts bristle at the notion of eating sushi from a chain, so it doesn’t bode well that Sasabune has siblings in L.A. and New York. But Seiji Kamagawa, who practices the Sasabune brand of I’m-the-boss sushi service, makes this branch top-notch by delivering the highest possible ratio of enlightenment to tough love. That means for every brusque warning against immoderate soy-sauce dipping there’s a revelation, like a tube of crisp nori filled with a combination of rice and Louisiana blue crab that achieves a level of deliciousness no California roll ever has.
1417 S. King St., 808-947-3800