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Good eats and drinks around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Archives: Jan. 2009


Sapporo: A sushi restaurant bustling with regulars

Sapporo’s rose roll.

Here is the sixth of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

Sapporo Sushi & Roll Teriyaki Restaurant

Where: 4803 Pacific Highway E., Fife; 253-922-5656

Price: $ (Entrees under $14)

Be prepared to wait for a table at Sapporo. Judging from the hundred or so boxes that hold the chopsticks of restaurant regulars — labeled, even, with their names — this is a restaurant that does a lot of business, and has a lot of regulars. We met one diehard regular (the kind with his own chopsticks box) in the lobby of the restaurant while waiting for our table. He’s a well-traveled sushi lover and Sapporo is his favorite for maki. We knew we had landed in good sushi terrain after hearing that.

It’s a small place, with seven tables that seat about 26, and a seven-seat sushi bar. Hanging paper lanterns and a few other decorative touches make it an attractive restaurant, although the cases of beer in the corner could use a shielding screen. Wood-enclosed booths provide some degree of privacy for diners.

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Happy Bento: A menu for everyone

Pictured here: Happy Bento’s spider roll.

Here is the fifth of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

Happy Bento
Where: 9909 168th St. E, Puyallup; 253-445-7909
Price: $ (Entrees under $14)

Happy Bento attempts to please everyone with its menu of ubiquitous Japanese and Chinese dishes. It doesn’t matter who is in your group –grandma or a toddler– they will find something to like on the menu.

You might not even guess the restaurant serves sushi until your server hands you the sushi ordering sheet. There, you’ll find 23 maki, including a few signature house specials. But the real specials are listed on a daily white board. Warning: you may have to search for the whiteboard, which was tucked next to the small sushi counter on my visit (I was chagrined I didn’t see it until after ordering, and my server didn’t mention it).

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Sushi Tama: Reliable sushi for affordable prices

Pictured here: Tama’s Dragon roll, salmon hand roll, ika ume shiso roll, spicy tuna roll. Also pictured, salmon and tuna nigiri.

Here is the fourth of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

Sushi Tama
Where: 3919 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma; 253-761-1014
Price: $ (Entrees under $14)

Sushi Tama seems one of those mysterious restaurants that looks deserted often enough that one wonders if they’re still in business. Sushi Tama may not do the bustling business of TwoKoi or Sushi Town, but the Sixth Avenue restaurant does have a steady stream of customers and fans aplenty. Ask an experienced sushi eater around town and they’ll probably tell you they’ve feasted on Tama’s sushi.

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Sushi Town: Palatable flavors for sushi neophytes

Pictured here: Sushi Town’s rocky, Mt. John, Timmy and spicy tuna rolls.

Here is the third of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

Trapper’s/Trapper’s Sushi Town
Where: 20649 State Route 410, Bonney Lake; 253-891-2046
Also in Puyallup at 209 39th Ave. S.W. Locations also in Bremerton and Covington.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: $ (Entrees under $14)

Sushi Town’s chef-owner Trapper O’Keeffe has two sushi approaches: Contemporary and accessible.

He said his niche is with maki rolls for the average sushi diner. "A lot of traditional sushi can be intimidating for first-time (sushi eaters). In Bonney Lake … there’s not a traditional Asian population. I’m catering to the people who haven’t had sushi."

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Gari of Sushi: Inventive Osaka sushi with saucy overtones

Gari of Sushi chef-owner Kazuya “Kazu” Kamada calls his Osaka style sushi more assertive than other styles, which he delivers in the form of bold ingredients and custom sauces with secret ingredients.

In Kamada’s sushi universe, rolls are more fish than rice and sauces add dimension that renders soy sauce unnecessary. However, should a diner want a drizzle of soy, Kamada blends his own custom soy sauce at Gari. His other sauces also are custom blends. He won’t divulge ingredients, but said he has several sauces that serve as base sauces — ranging from mild and creamy to zippy and

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TwoKoi: Full-force fusion

Pictured here: Two Koi’s lava roll

Here is the first of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

TwoKoi Japanese Restaurant
Where: 1552 Commerce St., Tacoma; 253-274-8999;
Hours: Lunch served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner served 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Price: $-$$ (Entrees under $30)

Jackie Young Koh always wanted a fusion restaurant. And now he has that in TwoKoi, where he merges his Japanese and French culinary training with his native Korean palate.

"There were no fusion restaurants here, and I really wanted to try it," said Koh, who previously worked at Tacoma’s Fujiya.

Add one more culinary twist to Koh’s repertoire: Midwestern.

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Maki trek: Seven days of sushi

Pictured here: TwoKoi’s salmon lover’s roll. Janet Jensen/The News Tribune.

Welcome to my week of sushi. I’ll write about seven South Sound sushi restaurants this week.

Much can be written about the vast sea of sushi. Nigiri, sashimi, maki – all command volumes about individual styles and Japanese regional influences.

But when I consider complexity and interest in texture and flavor — the components that draw me to food of all cultures – I think of maki rolls, those cylinder shaped rice rolls stuffed with fish and vegetables. So my series this week focuses on maki. Maki appeals to neophyte and expert sushi lover alike because maki can be simple and accessible to most palates (think shrimp tempura roll), or complicated and challenging (think unagi roll with a double dose of eel).

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Maxwell’s favors simple flavors

Maxwell’s executive chef Matt Colony. Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Drop-In Dining is a restaurant dining report where reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on TNT’s dime, then report what the scene and the food were like. Have a suggestion for a Drop-In Dining feature? E-mail us at


WHERE: 454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma (Walker Building) 253-683-4115

DETAILS: Major credit cards,

HOURS: 4-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays (closed Sundays in winter)

By Craig Sailor
The News Tribune

The scene: Open since last April, Maxwell’s is a dining destination where both the menu and the setting exude loads of style. A dramatic entrance quickly scales to an intimate, inviting dining area. Completely remodeled from its former self, it’s now tastefully decorated in muted tones and well-directed lighting. A bar and lounge area are slightly separated from the main dining area.

People in the kitchen: Matt Colony, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in London, heads Maxwell’s kitchen. A veteran of Gordon Naccarato’s Pacific Grill in Tacoma and Beach House in Purdy, Colony says his style can best be described as rustic. He eschews complicated presentations in favor of comfort food and simple flavors.

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