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Umi Sake House

My how time flies! I take a few days off to go to San Francisco and that results in nearly two weeks of no updates on this little blog! 
I’m not sure how that happened but the silence is broken, due in large part to a new place opening tonight! 
Last night I had a chance to get an early look at Umi Sake House, formerly Bada Lounge.  Umi still has the same owners but they realized it was time to do a massive shift in concept and they wanted to get back to a focus on food and not so much on lounge – Bada actually started out that way but over the years drifted more toward the lounge seen, with food as a secondary focus. 
The interior has been completely remodeled and is absolutely beautiful!  Built to resemble a house the entrance is the "front porch" with seating almost reminiscent of picnic tables, well Japanese picnic tables; the main room is the house complete with tatami room and a centrally focused sushi bar; and there’s a glassed in section in the back corresponding to the "backyard" with more casual seating. 
The woods and materials used throughout are inviting – it’s a place you want to come in and stay for awhile.  Plans also include a snow machine for the backyard!  When sitting at the sushi bar you face large windows enclosing the backyard space.  At specific intervals the snow machine will do it’s job and you’ll be inside cozily sipping sake and eating sushi while the snow gently falls outside the windows.  I’m not positive but I believe that will start in the fall sometime.  For more about the transformation there’s some interesting background on Seattle Dining
This is truly designed to be a sake house with fifty sakes on the menu.  That will be more than enough to keep me coming back to try to taste my way through the menu.  I sampled three different types last night and loved that the bartender really knew his stuff!  At least the first one did.  The second bartender was still learning but with Umi’s focus on sake I would expect that having knowledgeable staff will be a key element for them.  Last night a man, that I didn’t recognize or know but who said he was a sake expert and I have no reason to doubt him, spoke for a few minutes about the emphasis on sake and it was his observation that there are only three true sake houses in the US; two in New York and Umi.  Who knows?  But from the line-up they have here, I’d say this is definitely a top tier sake house. 
During last night’s party they were passing all kinds of bites from the menu.  We were also able to sit at the sushi bar and order from the sushi menu and I saw other people ordering from the extensive main menu.  The menu is actually a bit overwhelming, there are so many choices.  The main menu is divided both by type of dish – appetizers, soups, noodles – and the entrées are divided by preparation method – pan fried, steamed, baked. 
The sushi menu is also huge with over 25 specialty rolls, another 12 standard rolls and over 30 sushi and sashimi offerings.  M and I grabbed one bite each of a Seattle Crunch from a passed platter as we made our way to the sushi bar – it was a bit warm and the cream cheese inside was soft and gooey, melding with the salmon and avocado.  What a great way to start our evening! 
At the sushi bar we ordered the Umi House Roll (I always like to see what they name after the house) and a couple pieces of individual sushi.  The house roll was enormous! And delicious.  Scallop and cucumber were rolled and then topped with a slightly spicy tuna.  We shared the order with the people sitting next to us, who thought it was too spicy, but I had to tell them they were wimps as the slight heat was so fleeting.  :-)  Our individual pieces were beautifully prepared.  We sampled Yellowtail; Tako Wasabi and Sweet Shrimp.  Then the chef prepared a special dish for us.  We couldn’t quite figure out what it was from looking at the menu and believe it really was a specialty that the chef just prepared for us.  It was basically a beautiful crab tower, wrapped in salmon, perched on a slice of cucumber and topped with caviar and wasabi caviar.  Delicious! 
I really can’t wait to go back to Umi and best of all they have an extensive Happy Hour menu!  The "regular" Happy Hour runs from 4:00 – 6:00 and they have an extended Happy Hour, available on the "Front Porch" until 8:00.  There is also a late night Happy Hour Sunday through Thursday. 
So even though I normally don’t recommend going to a place too early after their opening, I’m going to break my rule for Umi.  My one caution is that if you go have a little patience as I’m sure it might take some time to become a well-oiled machine.  Still, the way they were operating last night, that may not take anytime at all.   
Umi Sake House
2230 First Ave

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