Well-made drinks and some sushi dishes to write home about are featured at Moshi Moshi Sushi in Ballard.
If you’ve traversed Ballard Avenue after dark, you can’t miss Moshi Moshi Sushi: a faux cherry tree, its broad branches lit with hundreds of pink LED blossoms, towers two- stories high inside.
The tree divides yin from yang at the dual-personality restaurant: On one side is the sushi bar, on the other the liquor bar. Of course, you can enjoy a cocktail or sushi on either side of that monumental divide — as well as up in the mezzanine, cozy as a treehouse in the blooms’ rosy glow. Where you sit depends on the ambience you desire.
Nigiri nuts and maki mavens, hang a left and park under the paper lanterns at the 10-seat sushi bar. If you’ve come with the kids (many do) or with a crowd, you’ll want a table along the wooden-bench banquettes that hug the wall under pretty parasols.
Spirits seekers and sports fans turn right into the bar, a stroller-free zone with booth and counter seating as well as multiple TV screens that aren’t visible from the sushi-bar side.
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Your favorite sports team may let you down, but Moshi’s manager and chief bartender Erik Carlson and his squad won’t. The bar’s cache includes house-made bitters and tinctures, spice-infused syrups like falernum and orgeat, as well as premium sakes and of-the-moment vermouths like Carpano and Dolin.
The lengthy cocktail list recently segued from spring into summer (well ahead of the weather). Lighter, fruitier concoctions — whips and sours, punches and fizzes — join perennials like “Liquid Swords,” a smooth blend of rye and cherry brandy with a strong orange undertow that offers solace on a soggy day.
You’re in capable hands at the sushi bar, too, where sushi chefs Nick-san and Hiro-san take turns presiding. Nick-san’s animated eyebrows are as mesmerizing as his knife skills. His pleasing compositions of color and texture taste as bright and fresh as they look.
A bountiful sushi/sashimi assortment included bluefin and albacore tuna, Atlantic and sockeye salmon, yellowtail, snapper, escolar and octopus. Too bad run-of-the-mill tekkamaki subbed for the promised ume shiso roll, which would have been a more interesting element. Miso soup never arrived, but the fish was first rate.
Nick-san fusses over composed nigiri. I tried the lively, lemon-and-ginger-spiked toro tartare wrapped in nori and crowned with vibrant orange tongues of sea urchin. You should, too.
Among the two dozen sushi rolls, I can recommend the Sophie-san (tempura shrimp, cucumber and avocado), notable for its crunchy interior and soft-pink coverlet of spicy snow crab. Shiso, scallion and lemon rouse the scallop-topped Moshi Moshi roll, stuffed with king crab and cucumber.
Oshizushi, or pressed sushi rolls, are a highlight. No nori, just rice and fillings pressed in a rectangular mold. The terrific tuna tataki version has crunchy gobo and radish sprouts in the middle. Red-hot momji radish (grated daikon mixed with red pepper) dots the seared albacore lying on top. It’s finished with a generous squirt of ponzu.
Beyond sushi there’s a variety of hot foods, from grilled bites (yakimono) and fried stuff to noodle dishes and even a shiitake-crusted flat iron steak. These are the purview of Kevin Erickson (who, with his wife, Tracy, owns both Moshi Moshi and Bricco on Queen Anne).
Look for slender, green, grill- blistered shishito peppers with lemon and salt, and wonderful pan-fried gyoza stuffed with gingery pork, beef and mushrooms. Kalbi ribs and a whole Norwegian mackerel were both heavily blackened but could take the extra char.
The steak’s finely minced shiitake crust was far from crusty, but a wasabi cream sauce mightily flattered the juicy, robust beef, ably supported by fresh steamed asparagus and a golden-brown potato croquette.
Skip the dull and dreary fried chicken nuggets (tori kara age). Tempura vegetables, so light and lovely on one visit, turned up soggy on another; tempura ice cream was dreadful.
For dessert, try the exotic lychee panna cotta instead. Or better yet, have another cocktail.
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