Restaurant Review: A very sad lunch at Seattle’s Sugo Hand Roll Bar

Restaurant Review: A very sad lunch at Seattle’s Sugo Hand Roll Bar

Sugo Hand Roll Bar | Japanese rolls/sushi | $$-$$$$ (starters $4-$15, rolls $5-$21) | downtown | 2001 Western Avenue, Seattle; 206-268-0172; sugohandroll.com | reservations for giant teams solely | no takeaway/no out of doors seating | sound degree: reasonable to loud | entry: no obstacles, just one gender-neutral rest room

A plump fruit fly slowly circles the airspace above my spot on the Sugo Hand Roll Bar. It is mid-afternoon, and I am having dinner alone, the premise being the type of good late lunch solo you possibly can deal with your self to whereas sightseeing in Seattle and strolling via the adjoining Pike Place Market. Social media has been hyper constructive on “The Sugo Expertise!!!”, with strangers and influencers galore sharing pictures and movies of shiny Hawaiian poke rolls anointed with chili threads, from martini to lychee that will get a glycerin bubble on prime that bursts with a powerful puff of smoke. Sugo himself scored a serious hit on social media, posting a photograph of chef Daisuke Nakazawa from the Michelin-starred restaurant. Sushi Nakazawa on web site in opposition to the brand wall. It isn’t one of many locations Nakazawa talked about throughout his current go to right here.

Sugo Hand Roll Bar seems good: an elegantly designed room, the blond wood central bar appearing as a stage for the creation of its titular meals which is delivered on to the keen viewers throughout. Roll bars have confirmed themselves popular in other american cities; it is a superb concept. After opening earlier this 12 months, Sugo was throughout social media after which appeared on an area journal’s prime sushi listing. Curiosity begged: Who was behind all this? I had been invited to Sugo’s media occasion through Instagram DM, and declined, however requested for particulars; none had been forthcoming. Data on-line was onerous to search out, however Sugo used sustainable fish – okay, promising.

So on the late lunch of the preliminary investigation. Just a few different individuals are seated across the perimeter of Sugo’s rectangular bar, out of 23 seats in complete. Diners are guided to a stool by a number, then given a menu listing and pen by a waiter, who steps again to move the order a couple of toes from the cooks display screen. Out of a complete of 4 current visits, the entire entrance desk employees had been sort, returning a number of occasions. Even inactive cooks appeared instructed to keep away from eye contact – all contact – besides to put the meals in entrance of you whereas saying the only model of its identify. It is a misplaced alternative. I am alone right here and would like to know extra – is that this fish wild caught? Cultivated? From the place? Even a brief poem of components and provenance establishes the connection of the sushi bar – that feeling of belonging briefly however absolutely to the lifetime of the ocean, the fisherman, the chef, the place and the time.

Cooks work rapidly, with roughly experience. I watch rice being compressed onto a sheet of nori as if attempting to flee, then lobster salad laid inconsistently on prime; the cylindrical temaki which disgorges a globe at one finish. The rice is pasty; the lobster has the visible enchantment of grocery retailer sushi fake crab salad, with the same, bland, generic seafood creaminess. All temaki right here, whether or not barrel-shaped or open-topped ( they do not cope with cones) are 4 inches lengthy and fairly slim, which suggests two or three bites. This one prices $8. Whereas I am nonetheless relying on the state of affairs, my bluefin tuna otoro arrives. I can not assist asking them to actually gradual their roll; they will make a alternative once I’m prepared, they are saying, they usually do it rapidly.

The otoro, additionally collected in a refrigerated container, is shiny however has a pasty texture. The style of salt that has been sprinkled dominates the place it’s supposed to intensify or, maybe on this case, rejuvenate. Nori is so chewy that it would not chew cleanly, requiring tearing it together with your enamel, which will get messy. This roll, at market value, prices $15 at the moment.

Behind me, within the nook of their quiet publish, a deep sigh comes from the host. What needs to be a small afternoon occasion turns into gloomy. The fruit fly is now on foot, circling the highest of my sake pitcher, then transferring to the rim of my cup, which comprises a flea.

Subsequent: United with caviar, the fish roe serving to considerably disguise the low tide, however sour-metallic style of flaccid sea urchin. It is the type of faculty that makes folks suppose they actually don’t love faculty. A couple of mushy sprouts add an additional nasty texture and an undesirable peppery word. Market value: $19.

The chef begins torching a bit of unagi for my subsequent roll and would not cease for some time. One other chef comes from behind and tells chef #1 that the flame is simply too excessive. This, Chief #1 denies. That is an excessive amount of, Chief #2 says, then walks away shaking his head. Chef #1 fiddles with the blowtorch, lowers the warmth, then blasts the eel once more.

The eel hand roll shouldn’t be good, its incinerated style and its dryness elevated by a sickening sauce. Defeated, I drink the sake – the chilly model of the home, it is extraordinary Kigen, for $13 – regardless of the imprints of the fruit fly. My boss is yawning now. It is time to go.

I’ve had higher rolls at different meals at Sugo Hand Roll Bar, however extra within the very disappointing class too. The Hawaiian poke model is open, to raised exhibit its glowing fish cubes; the sesame oil stays refined, the candy onion makes an look and the chilli fillets are each fairly and useful with a bit of contact of warmth. A crispy tofu roll would have been a favourite – the golden fried tofu, velvety inside, simply contrasting with the candy onion, inexperienced onion and sprouts that are vigorous this time round – besides it was sitting whereas I used to be clearly nonetheless consuming the earlier one. The surf-and-turf roll featured a skinny slice of melt-in-the-mouth wagyu beef that’s set alight on a block of Himalayan pink salt, then anointed with truffle salt – this based on a lauded waiter, with the cooks saving any fascinating data on their very own – in the correct amount to distinction with the piece of lobster. The lobster has a pleasing oceanic style and, sadly, the chewiest I’ve ever encountered, chewing and chewing like a wad of seafood flavored bubblegum. Market value: $21.

Hand rolls have to be eaten rapidly, in any other case their nori turns into each mushy and onerous. Many sushi bars inform you of this when handing over. Every time at Sugo, at the very least one bun arrived whereas I used to be nonetheless consuming a earlier one. Even when eaten rapidly, nori range in high quality, some already robust. Generally Sugo rice retained the contemporary high quality of particular person grains working collectively; typically it was mushy; it was nonetheless tasteless. I had a deepening suspicion, so I sought to peek into one of many two rice cookers behind Sugo’s counter: it was filled with preformed rice pads, and it appears have all leaders use them, giving up a couple of seconds of therapeutic in what seems like a horrible betrayal. I ventured to ask a chef about the kind of rice – “It is nothing particular”, they really stated. “It is very starchy, although.”

The appetizers are hit or miss: crowd-pleasing “norichos” product of scrumptious tempura-fried, salty and crispy nori chips, topped with a cheerful mixture of Beecher’s cheese, masago, avocado, tomato and inexperienced onions; much less cheerfully messy edamame coated in fatty truffle oil, with overcooked soybeans; a tuna dip with spicy warmth and a dry texture.

Two of the 4 cocktails on provide weren’t obtainable on all of my visits, making for a really brief drinks menu. The Melona poptail tasted scrumptious – the sweetness of the fruit subdued by the bubbly sake, a creamy Melona ice cream dipped in it for enjoyable – nevertheless it’s an odd selection for a cold fall day and pointless ice cubes caught to the pop ice cream. The lychee sake martini gave me a second of actual pleasure; the massive shiny bubble that the waiter threw on the floor of it appeared adjoining to the type of ephemeral and extremely pleasant gift that the standard sushi offers, the massive puff of fruit-flavored smoke a hilarious flip of occasions. The waiter noticed how a lot I favored the bubble and gave me one other one. How to not put it in your Instagram?

The glossy, upscale, and present aesthetic of Sugo Hand Roll Bar belies the experiments which can be in all places. I acquired a scorching towel midway via my visits; I used to be supplied wasabi and ginger, oddly, as soon as in 4. Fruit flies bought to me 50% of the time. The one napkins are small paper cocktail napkins; one of many paper pendant lights is repaired with tape. My first lunch – an appetizer, 4 rolls, a drink – price me $90.52 together with tax and tip. It will be simple, wanting extra drinks or having a large urge for food, to spend some huge cash at Sugo – an quantity that would take you to some other sushi bar in Seattle. Order a bunch, and also you’re within the vary of the best omakase experiences in our city.

So what is the story with Sugo? I lately acquired a press launch about new meals choices at Local weather Pledge Area, and – as famous on the restaurant’s Instagram – Sugo Hand Roll Bar is now serving within the VIP lounges there. As is, based on the assertion, the native chain Simply Poké. And, it seems, the 2 are a part of a mum or dad firm known as Conscious Hospitality Group. Just Poké now has over 20 slots, with extra on the way in which; Sugo Hand Roll Bar is coming to Kirkland, with plans to broaden. The whole lot is designed for quantity, prepared for replication.

I acquired a basic Hawaiian bowl for lunch from my native Simply Pok. It was simply okay – inferior to Sugo’s Hawaiian hand roll, not as dangerous as many different issues from my sampling of virtually the complete Sugo menu. However, at the very least it solely prices $13.99.

What do the greenback indicators imply

Common value of a dinner dish:

$$$$ — $35 or extra

$$$ — $25 to $34

$$ — $15-$24

$ — Lower than $15

Up to date: March 2022

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