Shota Nakajima’s favorite restaurants in Seattle

In recent years, Seattle’s Shota Nakajima has established himself as one of the most influential figures on the city’s food scene. Before the pandemic, he ran Naka, one of Seattle’s only kaiseki restaurants, which morphed into the more affordable Adana, a favorite among local food critics before it closed due to COVID-19. During this time, he was on popular cooking TV shows like Iron Chief: Guantlet and Defeat Bobby Flay. More recently, he was a finalist on Grand Chief: Portland while running Taku, his famous Capitol Hill karaage restaurant and Osaka-style bar. The grand opening of his new project will arrive any day now: Banzai Teriyaki, Nakajima’s version of a teriyaki restaurant with a rooftop bar in Cle Elum, which will be his first restaurant outside his hometown. .

Nakajima has been dining in Seattle since he was a kid (he split his time between Seattle and Japan during his childhood and training as a chef). He recently shared his favorite restaurants in town with Eater Seattle. The following spots are listed in alphabetical order.


Small boat

1040 E Union St, Seattle; restaurantbateau.com

Chef Renee Erickson’s nationally acclaimed restaurant is known for its focus on sustainable whole animal butchery and dry aging of underutilized cuts of grass-fed beef. Nakajima, however, likes Bateau’s more traditional dry-aged steaks, like its rib eye, and the restaurant’s atmosphere. “It’s a good old steakhouse, in a more cozy setting,” he says. “When you think of a steakhouse, it’s a little proper, a little stuffy. I like Bateau because you can go there on a nice occasion, or you can dress casual.

A bone-in chuck steak and fries from Bateau, one of Shota Nakajima’s favorite restaurants in Seattle.
Bill Addison / Eater

Friend

6460 24th Ave NW; girlfriendseattle.com

Copine is one of the few fine-dining restaurants in Ballard (a generally laid-back neighborhood) owned by chef Shaun McCrain and his wife, Jill Kinney, who have both worked for some of America’s most acclaimed chefs. The restaurant serves a mix of American, Italian, and French dishes in its three-course prix fixe dinners and a la carte snack menu. This is one of Nakajima’s go-to spots for a fancy night out. “It’s a very classic, well-made and pleasant restaurant,” says Nakajima. “The service is excellent and everyone is super friendly.”

GanBei

670 S Weller St; ganbeiseattle.square.site

Nakajima no longer drinks, but back then this Chinatown-International District restaurant was his go-to spot for a shot of whiskey, beer and rice porridge in a clay pot with Chinese sausages, chicken and eggs. . “It’s comfort food,” Nakajima says. “He really has that mom-and-pop store energy.” He also likes Gan Bei’s fried chicken.

“I’m a sucker for fried chicken,” Nakajima says. “I have a fried chicken shop and I still eat fried chicken every day.”

The Nido

2717 61st Ave SW; ilnidoseattle.com

Nakajima describes James Beard Award-nominated chef Mike Easton’s West Seattle restaurant as “that classic Italian that everyone is looking for in the city.” “Everything is always so well done,” says Nakajima. “He is extremely passionate. I also know a few people in his team – they are all extremely humble and driven people who cook delicious Italian dishes. When he goes to Il Nido, Nakajima normally orders the special, as everything Easton makes (especially the pasta dishes) is perfect.

Sushi Kappo Tamura

2968 Eastlake Avenue East; sushikappotamura.com

At this Eastlake sushi restaurant, chef Taichi Kitamura emphasizes sustainability, trying to source fish from the Pacific Northwest as much as possible. That’s what Nakajima (who used to work at the restaurant) loves about Kitamura’s cooking.

“He doesn’t really fly in a lot of things. It does what sushi shops in Japan do: take the time to get to know the fishermen and understand the ecology of the area you serve,” says Nakajima. “It really makes it a one-of-a-kind sushi place. You don’t get the ingredients he puts on a plate in other states or anywhere else in the world, which is really cool. Many other high-end Japanese restaurants in Seattle, he says, ship much of their fish from other states and countries, making their menus similar to what diners would find at a sushi restaurant in Japan, at Hawaii or New York.

bull buffalo

1523 E Madison St #101; taurusox.com

This Capitol Hill counter-service restaurant serves up some of the most herbaceous, funky, and satisfying Laotian dishes in town from Sydney Clark, Khampaeng Panyathong, and Jenessa Sneva, all chefs with strong culinary pedigrees in Seattle. Nakajima says he likes the restaurant’s extensive use of fresh herbs. “There’s always a great energy in there,” Nakajima says. “I like to order the sausage. It’s my favorite thing.

A ceramic bowl filled with green crushed ice and topped with cream and drizzled with caramel sauce.

Shaved ice with sorrel, Dinah’s cheese, hazelnuts and raisins, at Tomo, one of Shota Nakajima’s favorite restaurants in Seattle.
Kyle Johnson

Tom

9811 16th Ave SW; tomoseattle.com

This White Center restaurant by former Canlis chef Brady Williams opened in September last year with a menu serving micro-seasonal cuisine from the Pacific Northwest. Five-course dinner menus feature creative dishes based on what’s seasonally available in the Seattle area, and the restaurant was a 2022 James Beard Award semi-finalist for its outstanding wine program.

On his last visit, he says he was particularly impressed with Williams’ chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard dish that Nakajima is extremely picky about, especially when it comes to the broth-to-egg ratio. “He killed that,” Nakajima says. “We’re lucky to have a restaurant like this in the Pacific Northwest that showcases the ingredients we get here in a very stylish and approachable way as well,” he says. “[Williams] has a very good palate.


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Sandy A. Greer