Top 5 Places for Sushi (That Won't Empty Your Wallet)

While the creation of a sushi roll or a cut of sashimi isn't outlandishly complicated or difficult, the perfection of it certainly is -- and in this city, it's hard to go more than a few blocks without seeing a spot that offers the Japanese staple. There are the city's clear victors: Fremont's Kappo, Madison Park's Nishino and of course, Belltown's original: Shiro's. But suppose you want to enjoy the delicacy without blowing your entire paycheck? Try these five, and feel free to spend those extra dollars on another glass of sake.

5. Sushi Tokyo, 6311 Roosevelt Way NE, 526-2935. Resting on an unassuming stretch of Roosevelt Way among boutiques and electronics shops, the ultimate neighborhood sushi stop has no outward appearance of grandeur. But once inside, the tall, deep booths and elegant koi tank make Sushi Tokyo seem far different than the exterior would have one believe. Here, rolls can cost between $4 and $15 (served with a complimentary starter plate of edamame), but not at the expense of the seafood's freshness. Variety is this restaurant's greatest strength, with more than 50 different rolls and 25 varieties of nigiri -- including colossal masterpieces like the appropriately named Husky Roll (avocado, shrimp tempura, tuna, salmon and unagi) -- boredom is not an option.

4. Umi Sake House, 2230 First Ave, 374-8717. This might not be the place for a cozy conversation -- the reverberating music will quickly match the rising dull roar's decibel level and interfere -- but luckily Belltown trendiness isn't adopted in the stead of good sushi. Trendy neo-Japanese décor is paired with friendly service, fresh fish that looks as good as it tastes and, fitting with the restaurant's name, a well-stocked sake bar. Their rolls are creative, like the "tropical paradise" that incorporates salmon, mango, and blueberry sauce (yes, it's delicious), and range from $5 to $15. Luckily, the highest price tag accompanies creations like the "ultimate dragon" that's topped with half an eel -- which really is as much as it sounds. Umi's happy hour is worth a note too: from 4 to 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., the $4 rolls and $5 sakes are hard to top.

3. Kisaku, 2101 N 55th St, 545-9050. This might be one of the most affordable Japanese restaurants in the city, but first glance it's hard to imagine that beyond the white tablecloth covered tables lie sushi rolls ranging from $2.50 to $8.50 that rival almost any other. And with a name that means "frank" and "easygoing," the attitude is exactly that; there is no pretentious cloud here, only truly great food. Sporting about a dozen familiar rolls and a few delicious and locally named original creations -- such as the scallop and crab filled Kisaku Roll and the salmon-asparagus fusion Green Lake Roll -- the menu doesn't stray far from a traditional path, but the chefs only use it to showcase their creativity and talent. And on a non-sushi note, the must-try crispy calamari and avocado dip was an unbelievable departure from an otherwise sushi-laden voyage.

2. Ototo, 7 Boston St, 691-3838.Ironically located directly across the street from another sushi joint, this Zagat-rated gem on the top of Queen Anne stands apart from its neighboring restaurants -- and in reality, most others in the city. Draped in minimalist reds, blacks and whites, the ultramodern décor matches the service: dignified and impeccable. The expectation of prices to match the service and quality quickly falls on its face with a look at a menu filled with rolls often resting on the low side of a $3 to $13 range. Ingredients aren't skimped on, and the rolls' constructions are nothing short of artisan. While you might check out Ototo for its design, you come back for the unbeatable taste.

1. Village Sushi, 4741 12th Ave NE, 985-6870. Upon arriving in the U.S. as a teenager, executive chef and owner JongChan Cho was first exposed to seafood while working in a family run fish market. More than a decade later, Cho's artistic journey reached the University District and created one of the city's finest sushi spots. Rolls run from $3.50 to $13.50, and nigiri costs between $3 and $6--but you could easily spend twice as much searching for the same taste and experience. Cozy and welcoming, the jazz-themed interior features piped-in classics and vinyl albums from legends like Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. But, most importantly, Cho's background in choosing and handling fish means the sushi you enjoy is fresh, delicate, and prepared to perfection every time.

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