At O2 Sushi, a gracious new Korean-style sushi bar and Asian restaurant in Lynnwood, raw fish and live are on the menu, along with tempura, teriyaki, grilled specialties, stews, noodle bowls and stir-fries.
Live octopus was on the menu at O2 Sushi, a handsomely appointed new Asian restaurant in Lynnwood. On my first visit, I had purposely turned up on a Thursday to sit at the sushi bar with a friend who offered an insider’s tip: That’s when O2 gets its special weekly shipment of fish from Japan and Korea.
A baby octopus wasn’t showing any signs of jet lag. I watched a young sushi chef lift the writhing creature and hand it to the head chef, who chopped it into small sections and added a drizzle of sesame oil. The pieces were still wriggling when he set the plate before two Korean men seated next to us.
Our own meal began with omakase (chef’s choice) sushi. We shared an order (prices begin at $50 per person) so we could try hot dishes as well. Tempura, teriyaki, grilled items, Korean stews, noodle bowls and stir-fries are on the menu, too.
Sashimi arrived first: salmon, hamachi and two kinds of tuna, four pieces each cut about half an inch thick, nestled in shredded daikon along with pickled onion, burdock root and ginger. Before that was gone, more sashimi arrived: amberjack, striped jack, albacore, halibut and escolar. A third wave included nigiri sushi, though we had to request it: a pair each of salmon, maguro, shrimp and cooked octopus.
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The fish tasted exceptionally fresh and pristine; only the albacore was undistinguished. While there was nothing unique among the assortment, the quantity was more than expected.
“Korean sushi restaurants are different from Japanese,” the octopus-eating man told us. “The food just keeps coming.” I later discovered the booths and private rooms here have three call buttons to summon the waitress, more sake or beer.
Back at the sushi bar, the raw fish kept coming, as did our cooked food.
Grilled hamachi collar rewarded digging into the bony pockets with rich morsels of yellowtail. Red chili sauce glazed a fantastic whole grilled calamari, sliced into tender rings and tentacles. Far more subtle but equally delicious was Ankimo, medallions of warm monkfish liver dotted with sriracha and green onion. Grilled skewers of shiitake mushrooms, chicken thighs and little pork sausages were just ho-hum.
Several banchan (kimchi and other pickled and fermented nibbles, complimentary with Korean meals) accompanied a tureen of “spicy fish stew”: The fiery, red broth held bitter greens and daikon, but mostly chunks of white fish on-the-bone and a bundle of intestines, too.
It’s not all raw fish and offal here. My all-American teen and her meat-and-potatoes dad found a lot to like.
Seafood yaki udon will satisfy noodle needs. The seafood was scant — two mussels, one shrimp and many calamari-Os — but high-quality, and the velvety white sauce had plenty of seafood flavor. Meat fanciers might pursue the rich comfort of a rice bowl topped with tissue-thin slices of fatty brisket smothered in sukiyaki sauce.
Pickled vegetables and a wispy, refreshing cabbage slaw accompany the respectable salmon teriyaki. Tempura was light and lovely. On each visit the chef gifted diners with tempura-fried shiso leaves stuffed with savory minced hamachi — a plate I would happily pay for if it were on the menu.
Speaking of gifts, that first night at the sushi bar our new friend offered us a bite of live octopus. It was still squirming, but not as much as I was. My pal avidly pinched a pearly morsel with her chopsticks and popped it into her mouth. I had a harder time picking up a piece; not only was it slippery, it was also, I realized with mounting dismay, clinging to the plate with its tiny suction cups.
This is the sort of moment in which vegans are born, and in which a restaurant critic’s mettle is tested. “Make sure you chew it really well,” said our benefactor, cheering me on. I did, but the longer I chewed, the less I could imagine swallowing.
O2 Sushi attracts families and business people. There can be a slight language barrier between staff and customers, but many smiles bridge the gap, and the chorus of greetings and goodbyes upon arrival or departure make everyone feel welcome.
Providence Cicero, Seattle Times restaurant critic, co-hosts “Let’s Eat” with Terry Jaymes at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. Listen to past shows at www.KIRORadio.com/letseat.
Reach Cicero at email@example.com.