June 4 – 10, 2003
by Hasan Jafri
Sushi, sake, and fusion how it spose to be.
When I walked into FLO the other night, my initial reaction was semimasen, semimasen (roughly, “Dear, oh dear, yet another sake and sushi bar”). But I was premature. Hokusai’s Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa isn’t on display here as in most places Nipponaise, but FLO grabs you like a rip tide anyway. Bellevue’s newest Japanese restaurant has been open since February, offering great service and a sake list that FLOws like a geisha’s love poem to wine consumed with good friends in a spare, well-lighted place.
There’s a sake for every wallet, and every liver. Hang out at the long sleek bar and sip Ozeki sake ($4 per glass) while you wait for your table. This popular libation from California is served hot. Or if you’re feeling traditional and super flush, go for a “super premium” Japanese sake from Hokkaido or Hiroshima, with prices ranging from $20 to $120 per bottle. Drink slowly, and drink lots of water, too. Sake hits suddenly and without warning.
When you’re ready to eat, you’ll note that the innovative menu bears the combined influence of Japan, Korea, Hawaii, and (no snide remark here) blossoming Bellevue! All in one little meal. Semimasen semimasen again? No, not so fast. True, we don’t need more fusion, but bear with the kitchen. You won’t be disappointed. This is honest fusion. Proprietor Jia Mooko is Korean. Her husband, Steve, is Japanese. They both spent time in Hawaii and their menu showcases their love of many cuisines.
Dinner specials change with some regularity. We had kushiyaki ($9.50), pan-seared scallops wrapped with bacon and served with a light balsamic vinegar sauce. The pièce de résistance was a crispy salmon steak ($12.50), encrusted with curried rice kernels and served with a peppy wasabi cream that will leave your taste buds in awe. Very hot.
Traditionalists must try the yamakake ($8.50), two kinds of seaweed and shredded potato served with a raw quail’s egg (call ahead to see if it’s available and reserve some; it’s a favorite among FLO’s Japanese clienetele and sells out quickly). The restaurant also features a full wine list, as well as the usual Japanese beers-Kirin, Kirin Ichiban, Asahi, and Sapporo-as well as a full range of sushi.
But no matter what you eat or drink, you won’t forget the food. Occupying the ground FLOor of a building full of unsold condos, FLO’s location is very Bellevue Today (the nearby Hooters branch shut its doors the Saturday before Easter), but that just confirms Bellevue’s pre-eminence as Seattle’s new melting pot.