There’s still a good chance that diners in downtown Edmonds will see Ryuichi Nakano‘s San Kai Sushi up and running by mid-October this year. After 17 years, the much loved and respected sushi chef sold his Kisaku Sushi, located just south of Green Lake in what’s often referred to as “Tangletown.”
Since that time Nakano has traveled extensively, returning to Japan, visiting London, and spending time in Vancouver, B.C.
Interestingly, this brief travel break wasn’t really Nakano‘s idea. A buyer had come forward and made Nakano an unsolicited offer for Kisaku. After careful consideration, he accepted it.
Nakano is back now, working evenings at another restaurant to keep his skills honed. During the day, he looks in on the progress being made at 111 4th Ave. N.., next to the Church Key Pub.
San Kai, (which translates from Japanese to mountain – sea) is a name chosen in recognition of the bountiful food sources our region provides.
Prior to Kisaku, Nakano gained his decades of experience first in Ibaraki, Japan at a sushi restaurant also named Kasaku (Japanese for “laid back”), then for a while in Honolulu, before putting 10 years in at another local favorite sushi house — I Love Sushi on Lake Union.
For years, Nakano considered the downtown Edmonds area a good prospect for a sushi restaurant. While restaurants like Barkada, Mar·ket and Ono Poke do have sushi-like offerings, and Sushi-Moto in the International district on Highway 99 packs them in, downtown Edmonds hasn’t had a true, full-on sushi place in many years.
Nakano lives just minutes away in neighboring Richmond Beach and is happy about the new commute. “It’s like a dream — never in my life have I had such a short commute,” Nakano said.
San Kai will be smaller than Kisaku. “With 72 seats, you have to give up a lot of control. I had to hire five of me,” Nakano noted. By contrast, San Kai will have 30 seats, which will allow Nakano to maintain his high standards — he’s already tapped a long-time coworker at Kisaku, who will join him when San Kai gets rolling.
Nakano seems satisfied with the progress being made. Drains, exhaust fans and the bones of the sushi bar are in place. If you’ve visited Kisaku, one thing you’ve probably noticed is how tastefully decorated and charming it is. I think we can expect a similar level of attractive decor for San Kai.
Nakano will be partnering with FeedMe Hospitality’s Shubert Ho and Andrew Leckie (Bar Dojo, Salt & Iron, Mar·ket, Dojo To-go and Shooby Doo Catering)
We all owe a huge thank you to local food maven (Seattle Times, KNKX, PCC Cooks) Nancy Leson for introducing Ho to Nakano.
“I’ve known Shoob since he started cooking at Epulo,” said Leson. “I remember when he came to me and asked if I thought Edmonds was ready for an Asian Fusion restaurant (Bar Dojo) — I told him ‘go for it!’ — and I’ve known Rio (Ryuichi) from the time he was working at I Love Sushi.”
“Shortly after Shoob opened Dojo, he invited us up – I was happy to connect what I consider to be two outstanding chefs/restaurateurs,” Leson added.
“Edmonds is getting a lot of attention these days,” Leson said. “When I bump into some of the very well-known chefs in Seattle, they say to me ‘can we talk about Edmonds?’”
It was around the time of Dojo’s opening that Ho suggested to Nakano that they put something together.
Fast forward several years, and this seed of an idea is about to bear fruit. For Nakano, the advantages of partnering with Ho were obvious. “He knows the area well and he knows how to make a restaurant that will thrive in Edmonds,” said Nakano.
He’s also been through the city’s challenging permitting process several times before, so he has a clear idea how to navigate the bureaucratic red tape.
In return, Ho will bring Edmonds what promises to be a top-rate sushi place.
Needless to say, Nakano has the skills and experience to satisfy the sushi loving throngs of Edmonds. Nakano plans on having much of what you would expect — sushi, sashimi, nigiri, vegetable rolls, miso, tempura, edamame, sake — but also agedashi (tofu dishes), an umami rich chicken shiokoji, and a favorite crispy oyster with spicy miso sauce. Nakano also expects customer preferences to play a key role in how the menu evolves. Omakase options, where the diner leaves selections up to the chef, will also be available.
The waiting is nearly over. This should be a terrific addition to the downtown restaurant scene.
— By James Spangler
The furthest thing from a finicky eater, James Spangler insisted on trying everything on the table from the earliest age. At 13, he prepared Baked Alaska for an entire classroom and has had an insatiable appetite for good food ever since. He’d rather be in the kitchen cooking for the people he loves than doing just about anything.