Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lunch #49: J Sushi

J Sushi MSG150 stepped up to the big leagues today. Food writer Leslie Kelly (blog) and photographer Paul Joseph Brown (also does weddings) from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer met us for lunch at the next stop on our route, J Sushi. We've been trying to hook up with Leslie for a couple months. She finally caught up with us today and is giving us our big break into analog media. We arrived at noon on our best behavior. Adam even took a shower.

Update: Read Leslie's article and see our mugs in the Seattle PI.

J Sushi, Seattle
Address: 674 S Weller St, Seattle, WA, 98104
Cuisine: Japanese: Sushi
Average rating: 3.4 chopsticks
Lunch date: 4/30/2008 @ 12:01:00
Time taken to be seated: 0 minutes
Time to take order: 2 minutes
Time for food to arrive: 20 minutes
Total lengh of meal: 79 minutes
Chopstix quality: Nice Metal
Do they use MSG?: No
Where is the owner/chef from?: Owner: Canton, China; Sushi Chef: Hawaii
Number of tables: 9
Number of occupied tables: 5 (55%)
Number of business lunch tables: 5 (100%)
Number of "local" tables: 0 (0%)
Healthcode Score: 10
Links: Yelp!, Urbanspoon
J Sushi

Luncher: Emmett

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and SushiLunch: Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi - $7.95
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Emmett's Review

I'm a big sushi fan, and frequent Shiro's, Chiso, Fuji. J's is small, but has a nice atmosphere. We were greeted immediately and they showed us to our table in the back. We regaled our guests with stories both of adventure, and woe. We ate some sushi.

I got the bento box at a not-so-bad-price of 8 bucks. The salmon teriyaki was tasty, a little charred (which is how I like it). The nigiri was forgettable - a piece of salmon, I think, maybe a shrimp, and a white fish (maybe Saba). Like I said - forgettable. Accompanied with some white rice, salad, and an orange, it was a fine spread for lunch. The orange in my lunch box is always a nice touch - makes me feel like a kid in the cafeteria.

The real highlight was the dragon roll. Little sprouts were sticking out as eyes, lots of flavor. We also ordered a Hawaii Five-O roll. It had some fruit in it or something, but kind of skimpy in the fish department.

All in all, I was not blown away by the sushi. Nothing in the food department really stuck out as 'great' but the service was good and the price was decent for sushi. I could see myself coming back.

Luncher: Adam

Bento Box with Chicken Teriyaki and SushiLunch: Bento Box with Chicken Teriyaki and Sushi - $7.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Adam's Review

What a special day. In our DLZ, this is the only (real) sushi place. A Bento box with a couple pieces of sushi, a salad, an orange wedge, and some chicken teriyaki.

There is something to be said for teriyaki at a sushi restaurant... its probably going to be mediocre. This wasn't an exception. My sushi pieces were excellent. And my salad came with some good dark-green lettuce and an amazingly delicious salad dressing.

We also split some rolls amongst the table members. I only tried the Catepillar roll, but it was most excellent.

When in Rome, do as the Romans... eat sushi.

Luncher: Geary

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and SushiLunch: Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi - $7.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Geary's Review

"J" Sushi? I don't get it. There's an I Sushi in Issaquah (actually iSushi on their sign). Is this just the logical next step? I also had trouble visually unwrapping the octopus from the "J" in the logo and thought at first the name of this place was just Sushi, or maybe Octopus on an Anchor Sushi. I'm a huge sushi fan, but spend most of my sushi budget on straight sushi (sashimi or nigiri) rather than elaborate rolls. I also tend to shoot for the "great bargain" type sushi spots where you can get high quality fish at a reasonable price. A couple of my favs are Musashi's in Walingford and Hana up on Broadway. For quick, close to home sushi I go with iSushi, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant with a Japanese owner/head chef, but predominantly Mexican sushi chefs. J Sushi is a bit spendier than these bargain spots, but the prices are not outrageous. In addition to sushi, they also offer some typical Japanese lunch options at reasonable lunch prices. Since I was intent on having some sushi without blowing out my lunch budget, I went with the Bento Box with the sushi and salmon teriyaki options. We also got a couple of rolls to share with the table including a Godzilla Roll (looked like a spider roll on steroids), Caterpillar/Dragon Roll (Is there a difference? There was some confusion.), and a Hawaii 5-0 Roll (book 'em Danno). We reluctantly passed on the Super Dave Roll. What, they have a Super Dave Roll, but no Rick Roll?!

The Bento Box was excellent, the salmon was tender and flaky and a larger portion than Bush Garden; the salad was made of nice mixed greens with a light, tangy Japanese dressing; and the sushi consisted of three large, fresh pieces: one shrimp, one salmon, and one albacore. The shrimp was fine as far as shrimp sushi goes, but in general shrimp sushi (which is cooked, unseasoned shrimp filleted and stuck on rice) is really just a waste of shrimp. The salmon and albacore were excellent. Both were ample pieces of fish without a bit of chewy connective bits that often shows up in sushi of bargain joints. The salmon also had nice fatty striping. Yum! The rolls were fantastic. I didn't get a bite of the Spider Roll, but it was huge, with large chunks of crab. The caterpillar roll was beautiful. It looked like a caterpillar, with eyes, scales, and antenna. This is not the type of roll you get off of a conveyor belt. The caterpillar roll has always been one of my favorites. The distinctive taste of the unagi is complemented perfectly by the avocado and sweet and tangy sauce. Rolls done like this are fun for a splurge, but for my money, I'd still rather just have high quality fish on a ball of rice.

VIP Luncher: Leslie Kelly from Seattle PI

Catepilar Roll, Spider Roll, Dragon Roll, and a Godzilla RollLunch: Catepilar Roll, Spider Roll, Dragon Roll, and a Godzilla Roll - $20.00
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Leslie Kelly's Review

Awww! What an adorable dragon.

Whenever I eat at a new sushi place, I always test the waters by ordering rolls. I want to see what kind of care the kitchen takes with its cooked fish before I go for the raw.

J Sushi’s dragon roll – eel, crab and cucumber with avocado on top – was finished with octopus tentacles for eyes and sprouts for horns. The seaweed layered inside was just a little bit chewy, but beyond that, the flavor was great.

I also tried the Godzilla roll ($11.95; pretty good, not great) and the Caterpillar ($9.95; I’ve had better/worse, not too memorable.)

This place gets high marks for friendly service and fun d├ęcor.

If you want to read more, check out my Cheap Eats review in the May 9 Seattle P-I.

VIP Luncher: Paul Brown from Seattle PI

Catepilar Roll, Spider Roll, Dragon Roll, and a Godzilla RollLunch: Catepilar Roll, Spider Roll, Dragon Roll, and a Godzilla Roll - $20.00
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Paul Brown's Review

I had the spider roll, caterpillar roll, and three pieces of sushi: hamachi, unagi and maguro. I also had a bento with salmon teriyaki and sushi option. I thought the rolls and the sushi were excellent, 5 chopsticks. The bento was uneven, not amazing 2 chopsticks for value, 3.5 over all.

For sushi and rolls J Sushi is in the top 20% of sushi places in Seattle. Their bento is about average.

Luncher: Michael

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and SushiLunch: Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi - $7.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Michael's Review

All the walls of the place had giant paintings of aquatic critters. Behind me a jellyfish, to my left a giant octopus, and in front of me a huge pair of koi. This vibrantly colored orange and black carp watched me eat his relatives for lunch. I think it helped set the mood for lunch.

I tried both the bento box with salmon teriyaki as well sampling several of the rolls. The salmon was good, the sushi was tasty, and the rolls were both fun and flavorful.

If you’ve never ordered a ‘caterpillar roll’ now is the time. A caterpillar roll is a large sushi roll with an outer layer of avocado to give it the appearance of green skin, as well as decorations and eye spots done with fish roe. Top it off with bean sprouts for antennae and you have something that vaguely looks like a giant green caterpillar on your plate. And it tastes great.

Overall this is a quiet lunch spot that puts out a good bento and sushi product for not too much money. Tasty affordable lunch, and a nice splash of orange Koi. J Sushi is a solid place for lunch.

Luncher: Rob

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and SushiLunch: Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi - $7.95
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Rob's Review

I really wanted to love this place. Huge paintings of fish on the walls, the idea of good sushi for lunch in downtown Seattle, Aji (Spanish mackerel) featured on the sushi menu (although they didn't have it this day). I ended up with the lunch special bento box with salmon teriyaki and three pieces of sushi, as did most of the rest of the MSG150 crew. Also picked out the Hawaii 5-0 roll, featuring tuna and mango. Our new friends at the Seattle P-I picked out some other rolls and various pieces of nigiri. My salmon teriyaki was pretty dry, although the sauce was good. The small salad was one of the best bento box salads I've had -- real leafy greens with a nice dressing. The sushi was average. They were good sized pieces of fish, but the salmon was falling apart and the albacore didn't have the best texture. I've had worse, to be sure, but I've also had much better. The Hawaii 5-0 roll was interesting, but, again, the fish was just average, and there were only four pieces -- less than half the size of the other rolls. I also tried a piece of the very cute caterpillar roll, and that was okay, but not great. None of the fish really stood out. On the plus side, with the P-I folk there, Adam was on his best behavior. We should have newspaper reporters join us more often.

J Sushi Photos

J Sushi
J Sushi

Lunch Special menu with authentic soy stain
Lunch Special menu with authentic soy stain

Miso
Miso

Giant Spider Roll & Caterpillar Roll
Giant Spider Roll & Caterpillar Roll

Caterpillar Roll & Spider Roll
Caterpillar Roll & Spider Roll

Bento Box with Chicken Teriyaki and Sushi
Bento Box with Chicken Teriyaki and Sushi

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi
Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi

Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi (again)
Bento Box with Salmon Teriyaki and Sushi (again)

Hawaii 5-0 Roll
Hawaii 5-0 Roll

Koi Mural
Koi Mural

Sushi Bar
Sushi Bar

05/06/08 - Fixed table stats
05/07/08 - Added link to Seattle PI

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lunch #48: 663 Bistro

663 Bistro The MSG150 crew was seven lunchers strong today as we headed back past the intersection of Weller and Maynard to find our next spot in the Heart of the DLZ. Just next door to Ho Ho is the simply named 663 Bistro (at 663 Weller). Program note: Semi-vegetarian Rob is back with us after an extended battle with the flu. Welcome back Rob!

663 Bistro, Seattle
Address: 663 S Weller St, Seattle, WA, 98104
Cuisine: Chinese: Congee, Chinese: Noodles, Chinese: Cantonese, Chinese: BBQ
Average rating: 4.3 chopsticks
Lunch date: 4/18/2008 @ 12:17:00
Time taken to be seated: 0 minutes
Time to take order: 0 minutes
Time for food to arrive: 8 minutes
Total lengh of meal: 53 minutes
Chopstix quality: Really Nice Plastic
Do they use MSG?: Yes
Where is the owner/chef from?: Canton
Number of tables: 18
Number of occupied tables: 11 (61%)
Number of business lunch tables: 2 (18%)
Number of "local" tables: 9 (81%)
Healthcode Score: 20
Links: Yelp!, Urbanspoon
663 Bistro

Luncher: Emmett

Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and WontonsLunch: Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wontons - $5.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Emmett's Review

The first time I came here, Geary and I tag-teamed an entire duck. For some reason we thought we could put it away ourselves. But they brought this humongous piece of fowl against which we had no chance. It was delicious, I looked forward to our return.

663 is another bright Cantonese spot with an extensive menu covering soups, noodles, congee, etc. We had a good crew, affording us the opportunity to try a few different things. I wanted to do soup, cause I had such a good experience at Ocean City II with their soup. I ordered the Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wontons.

They offered three different types of noodles - Cantonese noodles, wide rice Noodles, and thin rice noodles. I opted for the Cantonese, which are the standard. Their soup was fantastic, and the pork was as savory as Ocean City II. It held up well to Mike's Noodle House. I also got to sample some of Rob's Curried Fish Fillet, which was fantastic, and the other assorted Beef and Noodle dishes.

Everything was solid. I'll return.

Luncher: Geary

XO Sauce Pan-Fried Noodles with Sliced Fish + Pea Vine GreensLunch: XO Sauce Pan-Fried Noodles with Sliced Fish + Pea Vine Greens - $7.95 + $9.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Geary's Review

663 Bistro has a medium-sized dining area that is clean with appealing, but muted, decor. Even though it isn't much of a name, it is unusual for a Chinese restaurant to have a name that doesn't immediately identify it as Chinese. And it puts them in the same neighborhood as Travis Shred and his neighbor, The Beast. 663 has a sizable menu and no specific lunch specials (YAY!). The menu selections include noodles, soups, congee, BBQ meats, and various other southern Chinese favorites. I was in the mood for noodles so went with the XO Sauce Pan-Fried Noodles with Sliced Fish. I noticed our waitress delivering a plate of greens to a neighboring table, so threw in an order for some Pea Vine Greens of our own.

Rob's fish arrived first and was a clear winner. He was kind and shared bites. The curry was thick and flavorful. The fish was fresh, moist, and flaky. My XO Noodles were also great. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. It was similar to beef chow fun, except with fish. The fish wasn't deep fried, like Rob's curry. It was just stir-fried in with the noodles, onions, and sprouts. The sprouts and onions gave it a nice crunch and the XO sauce added a tangy flavor. Yum! The Pea Vine Greens were cooked perfectly and were a welcome companion to the heavily noodled main course. The fish balls, however, were a bit too fishy for my taste.

Luncher: Adam

Noodles in Soup with Roast Duck and BBQ PorkLunch: Noodles in Soup with Roast Duck and BBQ Pork - $5.95
Rating: 5 Chopsticks

Adam's Review

The menu for 663 Bistro was pretty damn huge... so I was having a hard time deciding what to get. I thought the 663 was because of their address, but it turns out it's the number of items on their menu... <groan>. I saw some Meat in the Window, so I knew I wanted to get something with that. I opted for the Noodle Soup with Roast Pork and Roast Duck.

I didn't actually get roast pork in my soup, there was a bit of a miscommunication, and I got the Honey BBQ Pork. This little mishap ended up being quite a little pig-tastic blessing. The Honey BBQ Pork is sweet and salty (as opposed to just salty like BBQ pork from some other MIWs), and lent a nice flavor to the soup that it was in. The roast duck was good, but I wish there had been more.

I was going to give this place a solid 4-chopsticks review, until I tasted the Curry Fish Fillet on Rice. The curry sauce was very flavorful and creamy. The bowl that contained the curry was nearly overflowing with fish... they crammed-in at least 2 servings of fish. This is one of the best lunches I've ever tasted, and I'm heading back to this place to specifically get this dish! It was so good, I didn't even mind that the Vegetarian Rob ordered it.

Great prices. Great food. One of the International District Gems.

Luncher: Rob

Curry Fish Fillet on RiceLunch: Curry Fish Fillet on Rice - $6.50
Rating: 5 Chopsticks

Rob's Review

I'd been to 663 Bistro once before well over a year ago (and I sat at the same table in almost the same seat), and the dish I had was fairly unremarkable (what Joey got, but sans beef). This time, however, I went with the curry fish fillet, in no small part to Joey telling me, "The curry is pretty good here," and I must say that I won today's lunch lottery (they even served me first!). The curry is actually pretty great -- creamy, flavorful, with a decent kick (didn't need any extra hot sauce) -- generously poured over an ample amount of breaded, tender, and moist flounder, onions, bell peppers, and potatoes. One of the best curries I've had in quite a while, in fact. The pea vines in garlic sauce was a great side dish to the curry -- the garlic sauce was nice and light (a smidge too salty on first taste, but fine on subsequent ones). So, there are great things here at the 663, but you have to choose wisely. Today was my first msg150 lunch in three weeks (I was out sick with a horrible, horrible flu and what have you), and it felt so good to be back that I didn't even mind Adam's feeble attempts at humor.

Luncher: Michael

Tossed Noodles with BBQ Pork and Roast DuckLunch: Tossed Noodles with BBQ Pork and Roast Duck - $6.25
Rating: 5 Chopsticks

Michael's Review

I had the opportunity to sample most of the dishes on the table and with the exception of Joey's RMV everything was far above average. My noodles with duck and pork, Rob's curry, and Geary's pan fried noodles were all spectacular.

This isn't your usual boring lunch fare with breaded chicken covered in sugar. Fresh noodles, tasty broth, juicy barbeque, and the most awesome pea vines in garlic sauce make this bistro a big improvement over the usual 'lunch special'.

If you consider that this feast cost maybe 10 bucks including tax and tip you will have to agree that this is one of the best lunch spots we've found in the ID.

Luncher: Torrey

Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wide Rice NoodlesLunch: Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wide Rice Noodles - $4.95
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Luncher: Joey

Beef and Fresh Vegetables on RiceLunch: Beef and Fresh Vegetables on Rice - $5.75
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

663 Bistro Photos

663 Bistro
663 Bistro

Menu
Menu

Curry Fish Fillet on Rice
Curry Fish Fillet on Rice

XO Sauce Pan-Fried Noodles with Sliced Fish + Pea Vine Greens
XO Sauce Pan-Fried Noodles with Sliced Fish + Pea Vine Greens

Tossed Noodles with BBQ Pork and Roast Duck
Tossed Noodles with BBQ Pork and Roast Duck

Noodles in Soup with Roast Duck and BBQ Pork
Noodles in Soup with Roast Duck and BBQ Pork

Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wide Rice Noodles
Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wide Rice Noodles

Pea Vine Greens
Pea Vine Greens

Beef and Fresh Vegetables on Rice
Beef and Fresh Vegetables on Rice

Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wontons
Noodles in Soup with BBQ Pork and Wontons

Curried Fish Balls
Curried Fish Balls