It’s not often you walk from a Seattle sidewalk into an entirely different part of the world. Welcome to Momiji, where the traditional Japanese surroundings make you sigh with contentment.
There’s a sense of refined sexiness in the straight lines of the hand carved woodwork. The hard masculinity of the wooden tables, beams, and chairs is given a soft feminine touch with intricately woven paper lanterns. From the cloud-like chandelier in the bar to the sprawling sea urchinesc installments in the second dinning room, Momiji creates a night worthy of ending in a long, deep kiss.
The Japanese garden, complete with three times replaced Japanese maple and imported roof tiles, is said to really come alive during the rain. How perfect for Seattle. Don’t forget to check out the artistic touch of a decorative downspout and the small gurgling fountain.
Making its public debut tomorrow night, I can only predict it will take Seattle’s food scene by storm. Though its menu has a variety of dishes we Americans are used to, the real star is the kaiseki tasting menu. This traditional Japanese small dish offering is a multi-course tour of what umami brings food.
Perhaps it makes me a bad “foodie” to admit I don’t like tofu. But, I don’t like tofu. You can then imagine my hesitation when the first dish arrived and it was gelatinous looking tofu. It jiggled between my chopsticks. I was further put off. But, when I took a bite I discovered how wrong I was! It felt like laying cool velvet across my tongue. As soft a panna cotta, it had a hint of salty sesame which was rounded out by a sweet miso paste.
The rolls and sashimi are nothing to sneeze at, but with other sushi houses like Shiro’s in Seattle, these aren’t the reasons to visit. It’s dishes like the Kakuni Pork (a braised pork shoulder with shishito and grilled spring onions) you’ll remember on your drive home and well into the next day. Studded with rendered bits of fat, it dissolves on your tongue and gives way to first a hint of wasabi and then a deep riches of pork.
The full bar and extensive sake menu will make even the most seasoned diner take pause (sake bottles range from $17 to over $300). Among the specialty cocktails, I was incredibly impressed by the Onsen (a Japanese inspired version of a hot toddy, which one of my lovely dining companions compared to the smell of rain) and the Dhampir (named after an Anime character that is half vampire/half human). Also check out their house made mochi. Vastly different from the ice cream-like version at Trader Joe’s, its gummy consistency and delicate sweetness is what you’d expect your Japanese grandmother to make you.
No, this will not be your extremely affordable night on the town. But, should you be interested in a splurge, which might also entice you to also buy a plane ticket to Japan, this is a good bet. Just be sure to ask about the kaiseki menu.
1522 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122