The MSG150 troops headed out in full force today to commence a frontal assault on Seattle's Uwajimaya food court. We had a little skirmish back in early January with a glancing blow off of their western flank. Today we returned to begin what will be a long, hard fight. We are optimistic, however, that we will make a clean sweep of the food court before the end of March. It will not be easy, but we have a dedicated force that will see it through.There will be bad days. In the end the good days will prevail and we will walk away with stories of heroism and bravery that will be passed on to generations to come. Or we may just be happy to be moving on.
We counted nine distinct lunch options in that Uwajimaya food court. Three appear to be part of the Uwajimaya Deli and the other six are independent restaurants. We have already eaten at Herfy's and so thankfully don't have to do that again. We assessed the options as we entered today and quickly came up with a plan. We would start with the Uwajimaya Deli, working east to west and then move to the northern edge of the food court and work down the line again from east to west. This put us today in a line at Chef Kenzo's Japanese food counter.
Luncher: GearyLunch: Large Bento + Stuffed Squid Torso - $17.49
Most of the food under Chef Kenzo's heat lamps is sold by the pound or a la carte. The large and small bentos are the only meals offered. The large bento appeared to contain small tastes of everything, so I grabbed one of the pre-made boxes. Michael convinced me to add on the stuffed squid at the end. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it before being sliced.
All of the food smelled good and had the appearance of being carefully prepared, but as we dove in, it became clear that if it had been carefully prepared, it hadn't been done recently. Everything was cold and a bit dried out. The flavors of most of the items in the bento were good, but I think it all passed its prime sometime the day before. The rice in the bento was cold and hard like leftover white rice gets in the fridge. The cold tempura bits were horrible. Anything breaded and fried needs to be eaten hot. A couple of the included fish dishes were still tasty, but for $10, I don't expect leftovers.
Emmett suggested that everyday we are in Uwajimaya we head into the store and each purchase something to mention in our review. Today I chose Kukagumi, Super Fish Cracker (Ikan Super). Strike one. Even though the woman on the package gave it the thumbs up, I can not do the same. They tasted like fish sauce flavored styrofoam. Not my thing.
Luncher: EmmettLunch: Salmon + Tempura - $8.60
We've arrived. The Uwajimaya food court is NOT my favorite place for lunch. Yet here we are, in Asian Food Heaven. There are literally a dozen options for lunch here. We start at Chef Kenzo.
Our large group quickly made a thick queue at the tiny buffet stand that is Chef Kenzo. Some big fella behind me rolled up and was like 'hmph', as if our venerable group is preventing him from getting his quick fix of Kenzo. I gave him a look that said 'fuck off dude - we're here on a mission.' The polite man behind the counter was friendly, welcomed us, and moved the line along quickly.
The salmon under the heat lamp looked good. They let me pick out my slice. I wanted some veggies to go with it, and all they had was Tempura - not the healthiest of options but looked tasty. For $8.60, I was on my way.
I put my food down on the table and ventured into the heart of the store. I wanted something unique to go with my greaseball lunch. Something I couldn't get at your average American 7-11. I saw it - Calpico - tangy and sweet, with a little bit of Hello Kitty for flavor. For $1.99, I was on my Calpico high.
The salmon itself was alright - flavorful, with a nice seasoning and a little bit of char that gave it a crispy flavor. It was, however, cold. The Tempura came with sauce, and while average in taste, it was cold. For $8.60, I would expect hot food.
The Calpico, aka Calpis, on the other hand, had an interesting zing to it, like yogurt. Otherwise it was kind of like milky gatorade.
So Chef Kenzo didn't impress. For Japanese food, I'd totally head back to Kaname over this place. We'll see if Uwajimaya improves in the coming days.
Luncher: AdamLunch: Eggplant with Miso Sauce + Curry Croquette + Peking Pork Chop - $4.80
This is going to be short and sweet. The eggplant was oily and not that tasty. The croquette was flavorless. The Peking Porkchop was meat-candy-esque, which isn't my favorite thing.
When in the Uwajimaya food court... don't visit Chef Kenzo
Luncher: RobLunch: Salmon + Vegetable Tempura - $9.62
The Uwajimaya food court onslaught has started. There had been far too much debate about how the MSG150 would tackle the UFC, and it was still a little up in the air as we walked in, but eventually we settled into line for the culinary expressions of Chef Kenzo. The two fish options, black cod and salmon, both looked interesting. The salmon was a couple dollars less per pound, so I went with that, and a selection of the veggie tempura. Chef Kenzo printed out some stickers, slapped them on the styrofoam containers, and handed them to the cashier who rang me up for a total of $10.48 (with tax). Whoa. Not the most I've paid for lunch, but definitely up there.
The salmon wasn't bad. It had a nice sweet edge to it. It was warm but not hot. The various veggie tempura also wasn't bad, except for one piece, which may have been the sweet potato, but I'm not sure. The tempura was barely warm. So, while it wasn't bad, it very well might have tasted better if I'd taken it back to the office and microwaved it for a bit. You'd think, though, at the start of lunch hour that the food under the heat lamps would or should have been warmer.
In conclusion, I spent over $10 for a moderately warm lunch that didn't fill me up, and actually left my stomach feeling a little off.
Luncher: YvonneLunch: Large Bento + Eggplant with Miso Sauce + 2 Tempura Shrimp - $15.52
Presentation was beautiful. However, in the end the food was cold and not as tasty as the presentation led me to believe. The squid rings were very good but the rest was lackluster at best. For the price, $16, this was not the finest Japanese culinary moment.
Luncher: JaredLunch: Tempura Shrimp + Some other Shrimp + Vegetable Tempura - $10.92
Food was cold and expensive.
Luncher: MichaelLunch: Assorted Tempura + Tofu with Unagi + A bit of everything else I could sample - $14.00
The Uwajimaya Food Court is a fantastic place to have lunch. There are at least 8 different cuisines to choose from. It's fast, and relatively cheap. You and your lunch posse don't have to agree ahead of time on what you want to eat. Everyone can get their own thing and meet back up for a fine multicultural shared table food court dining experience. You will end up sharing your table with someone. Maybe a homeless guy, maybe an 80 year old man who was born in china, or maybe a bunch of bored software industry people with too much time on their hands. Suck it up and enjoy your pacific-rim food court melting pot. This is why you moved to Seattle. Oh, and if you do end up at a table with a homeless guy it is polite to offer him the other half of your lunch as you leave.
Within the food court there are some great places and some not so great places. Today we ended up at a not exactly awesome place. Chef Kenzo and his amazing ala carte Japanese cuisine!!!!
This is my second trip to Chef Kenzo so I had an idea what to expect. Hint: this is not cheap lunch food. You order a few pieces of this and a few pieces of that and suddenly you are out twenty bucks. So go easy on what you order.
The neat thing about Chef Kenzo is the wide array of very tasty looking items he has on display. The layout of various Japanese dishes is much more appealing to the eye than the Chinese counter down the way. This is also the down side, some of the dishes have sat too long.
Let's take a minute to talk about general rules for food court dinning. If the tempura or any fried object is sitting under a heat lamp *don't* order it. Tempura should be very hot and very fresh. If your food came from under a heat lamp you are wrong.
My bad. I ordered the tempura. It wasn't hot, fresh, or particularly tasty. I won't make this mistake again.
I did order the tofu with unagi. This was really great. I traded some to Rob for a bite of his salmon. It was also a happy thing. There are dishes here that rock but you need to choose wisely.
Food court dining rule #2: pre-packaged equals bad. Several of my fellow dinners purchased pre-made bento boxes. You can tell who they are cause they are giving Chef K bad reviews. Don't order pre-packaged food unless you are heading for LEO or some god forsaken BFE spot in the GWOT.
What else? oh the squid. Thank you Geary for getting the stuffed squid! This is a great big freakin purple squid stuffed to the gladius with a mushroom and rice filling. Sliced up into bite size morsels this was the high point of lunch.
I'm giving this lunch spot high marks for visual appeal, and uniqueness of food. Some of the seafood dishes are great. But sadly several items suffered the slow death of the heat lamp. Although there are better and cheaper places to eat at the food court I will go back someday for more stuffed squid.
Luncher: WayneLunch: Small Bento Box - $6.00
I had high hopes for this lunch. I’d heard good things about the food here, I have great fondness for bento lunches, and I haven’t eaten Japanese food in way too long. Unfortunately, the loftier the expectations, the farther you fall in disappointment.
There was a great variety of items in my bento lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bento with such a variety of dishes. I’m not sure of what most of the items were , but two that were particularly tasty were the egg plant and chicken skewer. They were both probably great when they were freshly made. The cold, soggy tempura offered no appeal. I wish I could have tried it when it was still warm. It’s too bad really. I think most of the food in front of me had been good or great when it had been prepared. Unfortunately, everything that should have been warm had long since cooled off.
This meal left me sad. I could taste a hint of what the meal had offered when it was freshly prepared. I wish I could have had that lunch instead.
Uwajimaya - Chef Kenzo PhotosUwajimaya - Chef Kenzo
Heat Lamp Fish and Tempura
More Heat Lamp Offerings
Tempura and Salmon
Hello Kitty Calpico
Gindaco Savory Puff Balls
Oishi Ribbed Cracklings
Notime Toothbrush Gum
Japanese Pop Rocks