It’s a satisfying soup you might never have heard of. Here’s where to get it in Tacoma
Sukiyaki is one of those elusive Japanese dishes in restaurants, although I have so many friends who cook it at home. It’s a one-pot meal with slippery noodles, thinly-sliced beef, tofu and veggies sunk into a bowl filled with a sweetened-soy broth. It’s rich, satisfying, punched with sweetness and the ultimate treasure for rainy weather dining.
As we endure this seriously chilly weather – last night was so very rainy – here are two places to find sukiyaki and one is for THIS SUNDAY ONLY (March 1) at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, so clear your calendar for soup slurping.
The other place I know consistently has sukiyaki is one of my favorite Tacoma sushi restaurants, Sushi Tama on Sixth Avenue. It’s a quiet, unassuming sushi stop across the street from Valhalla Coffee near Sixth and Proctor.
SUSHI TAMA SUKIYAKI
I love that Sushi Tama feels so homey, with maneki-neko cats and lanterns perched above the sushi bar and a dining room outfitted with really comfortable seating. The restaurant can fit around 40, so it’s nice and intimate. There’s a sushi counter with seating for 10. You’ll want to spend a lot of time there.
My favorite thing about eating at Sushi Tama is that servers bring you snacks and nibbles throughout your experience. You’ll never feel rushed out the door and the staff are exceptional.
They make their own tofu, which in itself is a reason for dining there. I love that when you order tonkatsu, your server brings you a giant squeeze bottle of the sauce and plops it on your table (I like that sauce. A lot). Their nabeyaki udon comes with a deeply satisfying broth with a raft of spinach at the surface and mushrooms and veggies sunk deep into the bowl and an egg with a creamy yolk. Really, everyone should eat at Sushi Tama.
It’s one of very few restaurants with sukiyaki on the menu. Like the other restaurants in town that carry it, it’s on the specials board. However, I will say that on every single visit to Sushi Tama, I’ve seen it on the specials board, which makes me think there’s some permanence to its availability there.
The Sushi Tama sukiyaki ($18.89) starts with several nibbles that include a bowl of miso, a salad topped with a creamy ginger dressing and a plate of pickled vegetables (or whatever snack the chef feels like handing out that night).
The volcanic hot bowl arrives in a big, metal pot atop a wooden board. Be careful to let the soup cool. It’s a molten mass of sweetened soy broth. Slippery noodles are buried deep in the bowl with one corner of the presentation dominated by cubed house-made tofu that is one level firmer than the puffy clouds of tofu that are the signature of soondubu, the Korean soft tofu soup found prolifically in Lakewood’s Korean dining district (Cho Dang Tofu is my favorite stop for Korean soft tofu soup). The house-made tofu alone is worth a trip to Sushi Tama, but so is the restaurant’s presentation. Also adorning the sukiyaki pot at Sushi Tama is a tangle of spinach, thick-sliced mushrooms and carrots cut into the shape of flowers. It’s as pretty to look at as it is delicious to eat. A bowl of rice is served alongside the sukiyaki.
It’s a one-pot meal that would be tough for a solo diner to conquer, so my advice is to order it with a roll or two and share the soup.
One thing to note about Sushi Tama is how this restaurant is my favorite in all of Tacoma for its adherence to traditional hard-to-find Japanese dishes. Not only does Sushi Tama offer one-pot sukiyaki, but they are one of only two Japanese restaurants I know of in the area with traditional natto. They serve their natto as a maki roll. If you’re a Japanese food aficionado, that menu item is like a secret handshake. You know you’re in for a treat when you find a restaurant with sukiyaki, handmade tofu and natto. Get yourself to Sushi Tama.
Where: 3919 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-761-1014, https://sushitamarestaurant.com/
TACOMA BUDDHIST TEMPLE SUKIYAKI LUNCH
The largest pop-up sukiyaki restaurant happens Sunday (March 1) and you’re going to want to check it out. The event is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave. An army of volunteers makes the food for this event. It’s one of my all-time favorite food events in town.
The temple gathering is a food and cultural festival of sorts with traditional Japanese dishes not often seen on local menus, including the temple’s famous sukiyaki and mochi cupcakes. This year’s menu also includes teriyaki chicken, miso soup, and mochi ice cream.
The event is to support the temple and its programs. Their annual food events are legendary, widely attended and they frequently sell out of food. You’re going to want to get there early.
The jewel of the event is the temple’s one-pot sukiyaki with a sweetened soy broth, thinly sliced beef, slippery noodles and bits of tofu. It’s available for dining in or for take-out.
TACOMA BUDDHIST SUKIYAKI LUNCH
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (March 1, 2020)
Where: Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma
Meals: Priced $1 to $14
Details: Food is priced a la carte. It sells out fast. Get there early.
Info: 253-627-1417; www.tacomabt.org