photo credit: Nate Watters
Sushi By Scratch Restaurants
Most heavy-hitting sushi restaurants in Seattle are serious, and that’s because we’re a serious sushi town. We’re thinking of places like Taneda, Sai, or Shiro’s that feel hushed and academic, amplifying every spurt of the blowtorch or tippity-tap of a chopstick. Nobody really talks to you, and you’re expected to savor that pristine imported Hokkaido scallop in the privacy of your own thoughts. For raw fish purists, that’s kind of the point.
At Sushi By Scratch, an omakase restaurant with locations in California, Austin, and Miami, everything is different. Instead of silence amplifying the swish of someone’s hair as they nod, you’ll hear enough cursing from the chefs to warrant a month of school detention, old-timey swing music, and moans of pleasure when other diners discover that fresh albacore topped with garlic confit and frizzled onions tastes really good. And likely, those moaners will end up becoming your friends for an hour and a half—a rarity for sushi counters, and a rarity for Seattle. This carnival ride of fun fish, fun conversation, and fun surroundings is a refreshing change of pace that we can’t help but appreciate.
The space itself is loud too, and can best be described as an underwater grotto—blue and purple undertones glow through brooding darkness. You have to ring a doorbell to get in, and are greeted with pomp, circumstance, and a gingery Toki whisky welcome cocktail. And just when it starts to edge on stuffy, what ends up happening is simply a relaxed dinner party. One where no one takes themselves seriously, and the guests have no problem letting the host know that their seared red king salmon sprinkled with matcha salt and pickled wasabi stem is “f*cking amazing.”
The nigiri toppings are the star of the show, and despite sounding like a bit much on paper, nothing here is for the sake of luxury. There isn’t caviar. You’re not in truffle-land. Instead, adornments trend unique and still let the quality fish speak for itself. Red beet mustard, lemon, and toasted quinoa complement saba with tang and crunch. A swipe of sweet corn pudding and crackly sourdough breadcrumbs give hamachi personality and pleasant texture. And the combination of caramelized pineapple, brown sugar, and soy on toro possesses all of the salt-backed sweetness of a dive bar teriyaki burger. Only, you know, better.
Some pieces don’t stick the landing as well as we’d hoped. Mainly, we’re talking about both beef-based nigiri. A5 miyazaki wagyu is served raw, which is far chewier than the same cut seared. And a signature creation, a roasted-and-resolidified bone marrow nigiri, has a considerable amount of grainy fat that leaves a hardened bacon grease kind of impression that just isn’t our bag. But it might be your bag.
The funky nigiri toppings are enough to impress someone who eats at omakase counters two times a week, while novices won't have to chomp on any prawn heads. (Instead, enjoy those brains as a more approachable nigiri topping blended with olive oil.) Add in dining room vibes that melt the Seattle Freeze, and you might even get a moan out of someone shy.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
Since this is an omakase restaurant, there's no need to decide what to order—but here's a look at some pieces you may encounter.
This buttery piece of fatty tuna features brown sugar-bruleed pineapple, soy, and wasabi. Between the sweet caramelization and savory punch, it’s our favorite piece of the lineup.
A perfect example of unique sushi toppings that just work. It’s brushed with a custardy corn pudding and some sourdough breadcrumbs for crunch, which are coincidentally the best pairings for yellowtail that we never asked for.
Turns out that tangy red beet-infused mustard and toasted quinoa was just what blue mackerel needs to shine. Truly another standout nigiri.
Sushi By Scratch’s signature piece is eel blasted with torched bone marrow drippings and then topped with soy, ponzu, and lemony yuzu kosho. While eating this is a little stressful since the chefs incessantly warn you about how time sensitive and delicate it is, it’s a succulent bite that could likely convert an eel-hater.