Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap sushi guide | Fishing for good eats

Lunchtime sushi has become a popular fare at Sushi Ko inside Poulsbo
Lunchtime sushi has become a popular fare at Sushi Ko inside Poulsbo's Central Market.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo

If you haven’t heard, sushi is all the rage. Actually, it’s been raging for a few years now, and we thought it about time to create a What’s Up guide to the artful dish on the Kitsap peninsula.

Contemporary sushi refers to varied bite-sized servings of raw fish and rice, which are packed with protein and low in fat. (Sushi began in a different form centuries ago as a Japanese method of preserving fish.)

We talked to local business owners, a few patron aficionados and got a taste for ourselves at the handful of sushi bars this peninsula offers. Here’s what we discovered, and what you’ll want to know before you head out for your next spicy tuna roll.

The colors and finishes in Port Orchard’s Mana Sushi are bright, smooth and cool as the other side of your pillow. Rich wood tones blend against yellow and green walls; light cascades over the flowers that sit at the base of each large window.

JoAnn Martin is just starting in on a platter of California and Port Orchard rolls. She began eating sushi after her sister introduced it to her, and now dines on it a few times a month. The healthy nature of the meal is a draw, but so is the taste, she said. She and her family often choose to eat at Mana because their meals seem more fresh than the ones they’ve eaten elsewhere.

“Everything is fresh,” Martin said. “It’s really good.”

Karin Burke, who spent a year living in Japan with her husband Mike, said the key to good sushi is two-fold: not just freshness, but also size.

“At some buffets it’s too thin or too dry,” she noted, after ordering the variety plate at Hiro Sushi. The Port Orchard resident has a taste for the more traditional rolls. But she and Mike said the ambiance of a restaurant weighs equally in importance when in search of a good sushi experience. At Hiro, the colors and decor brought Karin memories of her past travels.

“The intricacy of the wood shutters and the curtains hanging in the doorway, the lanterns,” she said, waving her hand toward the wood ceiling patterns. Hiro boasts warm red tones and dimmed lighting; even with its tables nearly full, the place is quiet and peaceful, serving both businessmen and out-of-towners.

Karin and Mike plan to visit Hiro again, though Karin admits a favorite of hers is in the Silverdale Seattle Lighting Plaza. Situated next to an Asian Market and near the Kitsap Mall, Hakata is abuzz with customers late into the afternoon. Owner “Sugi” Sugimoto stands behind the open counter, slicing and serving up dishes. Not more than a mile away sits the Osaka Japanese Restaurant, a place looking more like a neighborhood sushi bar than one that worries about cutting edge decor. Bamboo covers the walls, blooming stems hang from the ceiling, and photos of friends are tacked about beneath rows of red, blue and yellow pinwheel garland. At the other end of town, Fong Sun is waiting on the remnants of Origami Sushi’s lunchtime crowd. Despite the lax time of day, service at Origami is prompt and friendly.

In the north end of the county, Jennifer Rowson arrives at work each morning at 4 a.m. Once there, she gets down to business, starting with throwing out the previous day’s leftovers.

“We start fresh. The sell-by date is that day,” Rowson said, standing in front of Sushi Ko, a privately owned to-go sushi shop inside Poulsbo’s Central Market. Sushi Ko offers at least 30 various rolls, along with noodle, rice and salad dishes. That includes the just-for-Kitsap Caterpillar Roll and the Viking Roll, a Poulsbo-inspired dish resembling a California Roll wrapped in avocado and smoked salmon.

Owner Sachiko said the shop’s traditional and non-traditional sushi plates have made regular customers out of many in the North Kitsap community, and have impressed visitors from Japan. She said years ago kids would pass the sushi bar and plug their noses at the fishy smell; now, they pull their parents toward the counter hoping to get a taste.

“It’s not such a novelty anymore,” Rowson said. “It’s really popular.”

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