Nighttime comes early these days in Seattle, and my dining companion recently found himself craving a big steaming bowl of udon to stave off the cold. We decided upon J Sushi in the International District, a relatively new sushi/udon restaurant that had been recommended by a friend.
I don't tend to have very high expectations for vegetarian fare in Japanese restaurants since so much of the food is fish based, but there were a few vegetarian items to be had: vegetarian roll, agedashi tofu, a salad. The very very friendly but perfectly hands off waiter also informed me that the sushi chef could prepare a variety of special vegetarian rolls if asked. I started with a vegetarian roll from the menu.
There was something interesting in the roll that I initially thought was fish, but ended up being pickled gourd. Interesting! I liked the variety.
I also ordered the agedashi tofu in a savory sauce, and unfortunately it came with big pile of bonito flakes (fish) on top. I wasn't feeling particularity finicky and just scraped them off (unfortunately also scraping off much of the delicious light, crisp batter) and ate it anyhow. And it was really good: fresh, soft creamy silky tofu squares lightly battered in a most delicious airy but crisp coating and lightly fried, and served hot with a light smoky sauce (maybe there was fish in it... I couldn't taste any, but am not positive..). Got to remember to order it without the bonito next time!
My dining companion's udon bowl was exquisite. With a rich savory, oniony beef broth, perfectly chewy thick cut square noodles and nice size slices of beef, it was exactly what he was jonsing for and I was a wee bit envious.
He generously fished out a few udon noodles for me (and I continued my safari of near-omnivorism) and ate them sprinkled with one of my favorite Japanese condiments, S&B Nanami Togarashi, a vegetarian granulated pepper mix that includes chili pepper, orange peel, ginger, sesame seeds, pepper and seaweed. Omg the noodles were good. It made me all the more mournful when I found out that the vegetable udon bowl on the menu uses a fish broth. J Sushi, if you are listening, I would be a loyal and frequent customer if you made a vegan broth udon bowl!!
I really liked the ambiance of the place, which was modern and artsy and kind of hip with beautiful large paintings of koi and other sea creatures directly on the walls. The staff was also awesome: The sushi chef, behind the sushi bar, was obviously a very friendly, inclusive, fun, outgoing, funny guy who was happy to chat it up with his customers, yet I was feeling more reclusive and private and involved in conversation with my dining companion. The beautiful thing was that he graciously and tactfully sensed this and didn't overly engage us. I was so grateful and it made me feel so warmly towards him.
Especially if you eat fish, I suggest you give this place a go! We didn't have a huge sampling of the sushi (dining companion at a tuna roll), but the tofu and veggie roll were good and the udon (if you eat fish or meat) seemed to be divine.