12539 116th Ave NE
Kirkland WA 98034
Seemingly Hit or Miss at this Japanese Hideout
By: Steve G
Tired of the typical teriyaki in the Kirkland area? If you're looking for a more authentic Japanese restaurant without having to trek across the floating bridges, Izumi might be the place for you. Hidden in the unassuming Totem Lake West Shopping Center, many people would never find this authentic Japanese restaurant.
When I say authentic, I mean it in every way. From the steaming hot hand towels, modest sized sushi bar, and really odd hours, big fans of Japanese food will not be disappointed by this Kirkland joint.
In terms of size, Izumi is not large by any stretch of the imagination, but it can easily handle a decent-sized group for a party. A few tables are mixed in with their booths, and there is a handful seats next to the sushi bar for those looking for some "omakase."
On the menu, Izumi serves up everything you would expect at a Japanese restaurant. Teriyaki? It's there. Sushi? Of course. Bento Boxes? Definitely. Most of the entr items also come with a bowl of miso soup and a cup of sunomono (cucumber salad). You may think that the quality of food here may not quite be up to par compared to other places closer to downtown, but Izumi offers a decent selection. Their chefs take great painstaking care, especially in terms of the variety and quality of the fish.
While dining at Izumi, I ordered the katsu-don, a rice bowl dish that is topped with deep fried pork, onions, and egg. It also comes with an order of miso soup and sunomomo. When it arrived at our table, it was quite clear that the meal was piping hot with so much steam emanating from the rice.
Each piece of pork cutlet was quite superb and the onions and egg capped off the meal with a very rich and intense flavor. Katsu-don is typically a hearty meal, and while some might think it's a little small, it left me waddling back to the car with some leftovers to boot.
Grant went with the chicken teriyaki and tempura meal and also ordered some sashimi on the side. The teriyaki didn't exactly score points with Grant since it seemed very soupy and the cut of chicken was adequate at best. The tempura was a worthy effort, but the batter didn't hold to the shrimp or the vegetables. The sashimi was the best part of his meal because of the quality of the fish. Each cut of salmon and tuna were quite fresh and very tender. Izumi doesn't skimp on the size either, as each piece was quite thick.
It may even surprise readers to learn that Izumi's biggest fan may be Chef Hajime Sato of Mashiko's in West Seattle, who says that he often competes with Izumi at the fish mongers market for the choice catch.
Service can bit a little hit or miss depending on when you go. At times the staff is top notch and on the ball, and at other times we've had to walk up to a server to finally get the bill. The hours are also quite perplexing because they are only open for a few hours for lunch and then they re-open at 5pm for dinner.
Overall, the typical entrees are a bit hit or miss. The katsu-don was done quite well and I definitely recommend it as a great lunch. The chicken teriyaki and tempura on the other hand, didn't do so well and we would suggest going with something else on the menu. But the one thing you can't miss at Izumi is the sushi. Great in quality and cut in generous portions, the sushi at Izumi is quite a treat.
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