The new Magnolia sushi spot fosters a small-town watering-hole vibe, with first-rate fish and well-crafted cocktails in a welcoming atmosphere.
Magnolia’s Oliver’s Twist has left the building, but the easy camaraderie of a small-town watering hole remains intact at its successor, Yume Sushi.
One night, a guy walked into Yume and took a seat at the bar in front of the fish case. He ordered a couple of sushi rolls and fell into conversation with two women sipping cocktails next to him. Since the restaurant opened in March, he said, he’d eaten there at least 20 times. He feels vaguely disloyal about this tendency not because his wife is sitting at home (she doesn’t care for sushi) but because he works at another restaurant down the street.
If Yume was in my neighborhood, I’d be a regular, too. It doesn’t serve the most refined sushi in town nor the lightest tempura, but the quality of the seafood is first-rate and the atmosphere so congenial you’d have to be a fish-hating hermit not to find this place appealing.
Yume is a family business. The proprietors are two 30-something couples: twin brothers JP and Jin Kim, and their wives, Mandy Kim and Sarah Son. They are all restaurant veterans, born in South Korea. The brothers grew up in Oregon. During college, they went to Japan on an exchange program and ended up staying for two years, learning the fundamentals of cooking, first at their aunt’s Tokyo izakaya, then under other Japanese chefs. For the past eight years, they’ve worked in Seattle sushi bars, including Shiku in Ballard.
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Jin is behind the sushi bar; JP is in the kitchen. Mandy and Sarah run the front of the house, greeting, seating and serving with poise, skill and efficiency. “For my brother and I they are the bosses,” JP says. The women’s talents extend to mixing cocktails. A sassy, fizzy “Triple Gin” (gin, muddled ginger and ginger beer) is one of their signature drinks. They can make you a classic martini, or a vodka-based sake-Tini that is smooth and surprisingly dry despite the presence of Asian pear juice. For a drink worthy of a warrior, try “The Last Samurai.” It mixes Japanese whiskey and sweet vermouth with a dash of savory dashi. Because the service bar is behind the scenes, the entire restaurant — 36 seats including the sushi bar — is accessible to minors.
I saw no children on my visits. I saw singles and couples kicking back over drinks and apps, or demolishing the flamboyant, Western-style, inside-out sushi rolls that prompt eye-rolling among sushi purists. Some crowd favorites among the 16 specialty rolls are tops on my list, too. The “Red Dragon” roars with jalapeño, spicy tuna and sriracha-laced hot sauce, but also quietly crackles with deep-fried soft-shell crab. The “Hot Mess,” stuffed and saddled with salmon, also gets a finishing squirt of fiery sauce. It’s hot, yes, but well-structured with a rigid inner spine of cucumber and pickled burdock root (yamagobo) and a ruffled outer cape of vinegar-marinated cucumber (sunomono).
The “Evergreen” doubles down on crunch with both yamagobo and deep-fried asparagus inside, but the outside is soft and creamy, with albacore and avocado. “TuMa” is one of the simpler concoctions. The interior conceals spicy tuna and cucumber; tobiko-speckled seared tuna drapes the outside, with aioli drizzled as a finishing touch.
Aioli also pulls together a salad of sunumono and raw yellowtail, as light and lovely a starter as a trio of broiled sea scallops under a crusty cap of panko and parm. A panko-encrusted deep-fried avocado, each half stuffed with spicy tuna and heavily scribbled with sriracha-laced kewpie mayo, is Yume’s marvelously textured version of “monkey brain.” Very good karaage, extra-crispy fried chicken nuggets made of dark meat steeped in ginger and soy, satisfies a different primal urge. Non-starters among the starters: not-so-light tempura shrimp and much-too-dry onigiri, a nori-wrapped packet of seasoned rice with a filling of baked salmon and avocado.
Rice proved to be nigiri’s weak spot as well. Nigiri sushi and sashimi are available individually or in sets. The fish in an eight-piece nigiri set was pristine and well cut but the rice was too sticky, the grains clumping rather than clinging to each other.
If, as I do, you like cold sake with your sushi, Yume offers several styles at modest prices ($6-$13 by the glass; $12-$16 for 300 ml bottles). Masumi’s “Mirror of Truth” junmai is soft and versatile. Dewazakura’s “Tenth Degree” is a sharp, dry, near-gin-like ginjo.
At the sushi bar, Mandy and Sarah make a show of pouring sake into a small glass set inside a shallow, lacquered box, called a masu. The glass overflows with liquid, which fills the masu as well. I finished the glass first, then refilled it with the contents of the masu. (Each box is hand-washed and dried.) It’s a Japanese custom that, according to JP, means “Let’s prosper all together.” I read it as a gesture of generosity and hospitality from the family to their new neighbors.
Yume Sushi ★★
3217 W. McGraw St., Magnolia
Reservations: not accepted
Hours: 4-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; happy hour 4-6 p.m.
Prices: $$$ — appetizers $2-$12; sushi rolls $4-$15; nigiri $4-$7 (two pieces); sashimi $8-$16 (four-five pieces); sets $14-$28 (five-10 pieces)
Drinks: sake, beer, wine, spirits and specialty cocktails; service bar only
Service: friendly and fast
Parking: on street
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles