FLO Japanese Restaurant & Sake Bar Celebrates 19 Years in Bellevue

February 17, 2022 – by Sandy Vo

As Downtown Bellevue continues to grow, mom-and-pop shops are becoming a rarity. FLO Japanese Restaurant & Sake Bar is one of the few remaining in Bellevue. Owners and Bellevue residents Steve and Jia Mooko opened FLO in February 2003, looking to bring a flair of traditional Japanese cuisine to Downtown.

“We wanted to offer new Japanese cuisine to Bellevue by serving higher quality ingredients,” Steve Mooko said.

The Mookos moved from Hawaii to Bellevue in the late 1990s. From the beginning, they saw economic growth potential for independent restaurants.

“You had global corporations moving in alongside rural residence,” Mooko said. “We were in the perfect location to reach a wide audience.”

This year, the Mookos are celebrating 19 years of offering a unique dining experience in Downtown Bellevue.

The concept of FLO was inspired by small traditional Japanese plates focused on fresh ingredients. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is spaciously comfortable, with neutral lighting and soft colors.

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Sushi and Sashimi

Do you know the difference between sushi and sashimi?

If you’re dining at our Bellevue sushi restaurant, it’s important distinguish to make. Confusing the two could mean ending up with a dish entirely different from what you were wanting, or it could at very least look unrefined in the eyes of some of the more dedicated Japanese food aficionados.

A helpful point to understand is that the word “sushi” does not refer to the fish, as many people think. It is an antiquated word that translates to “vinegar rice”, describing the blend of rice and vinegar that goes into sushi’s production. Therefore, it’s not sushi if it doesn’t have rice, but it can be sushi without having fish.

Sushi rolls and nigiri-sushi are both sushi, therefore, even if they are made only with egg, cucumber, or nori. Sashimi, by contrast, is only a piece of fish, and therefore cannot be identified as sushi.

Putting Rice First

Everybody knows about Japan’s relationship with rice. This grain is a significant staple throughout much of Asia, and indeed much of the world. Our Bellevue Japanese restaurant is no exception, with rice playing a prominent role in our dinners, our sushi, and of course our sake. But just how important is rice to Japanese dining?

Japan’s treatment of rice marks what is probably the biggest key difference between Eastern and Western culinary philosophy. For most Westerners, the main course of the meal is generally the protein. We put our meat front and center and surround it with a supporting cast of grains and vegetables. In Asia, however, this paradigm is flipped. The main part of the meal is always either a grain or a starch, usually rice, with meat serving to augment the main course along with the vegetables. This attitude could very well account for some of the superior health benefits of Asian-style dining, which you can experience for yourself at Flo Restaurant in Bellevue!

Omakase Sashimi

Custom platter created just for you by our Chef

Feeling adventurous? Come by Flo Japanese Restaurant in Bellevue for some omakase sashimi. Just set a budget, and our head sushi chef will put together a special sashimi meal just for you!

The term “omakase” roughly translates to “It’s up to you”. When you order an omakase meal, you’re giving the chef license to make you whatever he feels like. If you’re not particularly picky, this is a great way to get the best possible sashimi spread. Not only is the chef likely to prepare some of his own personal specialties, but he’s also picking from the best and freshest fish currently available. So come on down for some omakase! You’ll be glad that you did.

How Rice Vinegar is Made

Plain White Rice vs. Sushi Rice

The rice that we use in the sushi at our Bellevue Japanese restaurant is not just normal steamed rice. If you’re familiar with sushi, you may have noticed that sushi rice has a subtle taste and texture to it that goes beyond plain white rice.

So, what is it that turns normal rice into sushi rice?

The answer is sushi vinegar. This is a special variety of vinegar made by mixing rice vinegar with other ingredients. The specific recipe will vary from place to place, but the rice vinegar is fairly universal; the taste of white vinegar is too strong, and would overpower the subtle tastes that you find in sushi. In general, sushi vinegar consists of the rice vinegar, salt, and a sweetening agent like sugar, sake, or occasionally nori.