Posted on | June 13, 2009 | 10 Comments |
Kushibar is a much needed addition to the Belltown food scene serving Japanese street food. Kushi means stick in Japanese, and just as the name suggests you can order pretty much anything edible on a stick here (Kushiyaki)- vegetables, seafood and meat including almost every part of a chicken- liver, heart, gizzards, feet, balls (ok, not chicken balls, I meant chicken meatballs) are served as skewers. Even though the restaurant is named Kushibar, it is not their Kushiyaki which made us fans, in fact I think the Kushiyaki here is just mediocre, but more about that later.
As much as I love Umi Sake House and Wasabi Bistro, I can’t eat at those places every day, but Kushibar is more of a comfort food kind of place for us. First of all the ambience is super casual, it is like the friendly neighborhood bar you can walk into in your sweatpants, not that I will ever be caught dead in public in my sweatpants. But seriously, You might really want to wear something casual that can be thrown into the washer as soon as you get back home since your clothes will be smelling of smoke and food if you spend at least 15 minutes inside Kushibar. That’s really the biggest negative I have to say about this place, the smell and the smoke from the grill in the open kitchen, but it is a small price to pay for such tasty food at such cheap prices.
You know a place is casual when you see a big stack of small plates, paper napkins and chopsticks on every table. There are a few seats at the bar, and a few tables inside, but I love the semi-open patio with the big wooden tables. Service is normally really good, bartender is super friendly, but a couple of waitresses are snooty and always look like they are extremely bored with their lives. They’d much rather stay in the bar area and flirt with the bartender than take your order. I have learned to ignore them, we don’t go there for the service. Unlike other Japanese places, they don’t start you out with the free edamame bowl, instead the free food here is Curry flavored popcorn! Oh, that stuff is seriously addictive, even though the curry powder they use is extremely salty, I can go there to just eat the curry popcorn!
We have been there enough times to settle on our favorites in the menu. As I mentioned before, the skewered items are not all that great here. We have tried a bunch of stuff on the stick, at $2-$3 a skewer, you can easily work your way through the entire skewer menu in a few visits. Chicken balls are really good, really soft and tender. Pork belly was a disappointment, bacon wrapped scallops and the chicken thighs were fine, but nothing to write home about. Our favorite item on the stick are the Shishito peppers, a mild Japanese pepper skewered and char-grilled. At $2 per order, we get a couple of orders every time.
The real stars here are the dishes that don’t come on a stick. Grilled Saba (Mackerel) is really good, crispy on the outside, moist inside. Then there are the chicken wings called Kamikaze wings, easily the best spicy wings I’ve had at a restaurant. There is a special called Fried Rice Omelette , we ordered it out of curiosity, and it was exactly what it sounded like - an omelette stuffed with fried rice! What a great idea, this was a really good dish, except for the sweet sauce they had poured all over it, without the sauce this is a keeper in my book. After we have a few appetizers and beer, we always finish off the meal with the same two dishes – Pork fried rice and the Spicy Ginger Chicken. The ginger chicken with its succulent pieces of sauteed chicken covered in a spicy, tangy, gingery sauce is still only in the specials menu, it is really the best dish here, I hope they move it to the main menu soon!
They have a great selection of beers and sakes and a few specially cocktails as well. We normally stick with beer as the spicy food goes really well with beer. Even with a few beers and more food than our stomachs can handle, our check has never been more than $45 for two. It is a great deal and as long as they keep the ginger chicken in the menu we will keep going back for sure!