Tacoma’s newest sushi destination Miyamoto is open. Here’s a first look
We’re a city without pretense, which is why in Tacoma, it’s not unusual to find some of the city’s best eating in a strip mall.
Enter Miyamoto, Tacoma’s newest sushi restaurant that opened September 24. It’s tucked into a strip mall on 38th in the same neighborhood where you’ll find 1.2 million cell phone stores, 32 places to buy a suit and 459 mattress stores.
There are only 458 mattress stores nearby.
That’s all to say that buried among the mundane places where we conduct the most boring of our daily errands, you might stumble upon a dining gem that’s a respite from the grind.
Miyamoto is such a place. Longtime sushi lovers will dial back 20 years when that location held Kabuki, one of the best sushi restaurants to ever grace Tacoma. It opened in 1992. Kabuki was “sushi theater” because of how the seats were positioned with a plum view of the sushi counter. Sadly, Kabuki closed in 2013 and two restaurants followed, but did not stick. Miyabi operated there from 2014 to 2018 and Wabi Sabi ran briefly after that.
MIYAMOTO: SIMPLE AND PLEASING JAPANESE CUISINE
Miyamoto is a sibling restaurant to the beloved Musashi, with locations in Seattle and Bellevue.
I spotted a familiar chef behind the sushi counter: Takashi Sasaki, who previously operated Puyallup’s Kanpai. Sasaki closed his Kanpai about six years ago and Xuan Fang and Wei Wei He opened My Lil’ Cube in that space in 2014. Kanpai’s departure was a serious loss for Puyallup and downtown never gained another Japanese restaurant anything like Kanpai, although if you drive up to South Hill, Sushi Ari is a great alternative. Kanpai was the same style as Miyamoto: A no-frills Japanese restaurant. It’s wonderful to see Chef Sasaki again behind the sushi counter.
Miyamoto carries a very simple aesthetic that’s a little mom-and-pop around the edges, like some of the best sushi destinations in Tacoma.
If you want me to rate the restaurant on a scale from Fujiya to Trapper’s, I’d say it falls somewhere around Sushi Tama.
Only diehard Tacoma sushi fans will understand that last sentence, but let me help you newcomers: Miyamoto exudes an understated, elegant simplicity and is not at all in the category of Americanized sushi. You won’t find supersized rolls with flaming ingredients or myriad squiggles of sauces drizzled all over the plate. You won’t have to unhinge your jaw to enjoy a slice of maki, either. Rolls at Miyamoto are tight, neat, compact.
The menu is well rounded with a wide selection of bento boxes, Japanese curries, udon soups, donburi bowls, a terrific list of appetizers and, of course, a selection of nigiri and maki.
The one-page menu made me so happy. It reminded me so much of Sushi Tama, among my favorite Japanese restaurants in Tacoma because it delves deep into Japanese classics you can’t find anywhere else in Tacoma, such as sukiyaki.
WHAT TO GET ON A FIRST VISIT TO MIYAMOTO
Here are my dining notes from a first visit:
Tatami rooms: Dividers and spacing between the tatami rooms make them nice places for your family to dine if you crave a little barrier between your table and the rest of the dining room. As for that dining room, the tables were well spaced.
Outdoor dining: None here, sorry.
Take-out and delivery: You can definitely get take-out here, plus they’re on Uber Eats
Dining room: It very much looks as it did when Wabi Sabi last operated there. Miyabi also looked similar. The restaurant received a huge decor upgrade after Kabuki closed and Miyabi took over that space. It’s simple and nice with minimalist decor, good lighting, and great views of the sushi counter from nearly every table (just like Kabuki!).
Sushi menu: Outstanding prices. I haven’t seen these kinds of prices for a few years in Tacoma. 16 nigiri choices are served in pairs ($4.50 to $5.50). There are 12 maki rolls ranging from a modestly-priced negihama ($3.50) to the fancier rainbow roll ($15). For grazers, look to the sushi-nigiri sets. Set 1 comes with a California roll, plus tuna, shrimp, salmon, seared albacore and surface clams ($15). Set 2 comes with a hot-spicy salmon roll, plus tuna, hamachi, salmon, eel, tobiko and scallop ($18).
Appetizers: Yakitori, takoyaki, agedashi tofu, chicken karaage, edamame, vegetable tempura and gyoza ($5 to $7).
Bento: Huge selection, ranging from teriyaki chicken ($16) to katsu ($16), salmon shioyaki ($18) and chef’s choice ($25). These are full dinners served with nibbles, salad, miso and rice.
Japanese curry and udon: Three styles of curry with chicken or pork ($13 to $16), plus three kinds of udon ($8 to $14).
Donburi: Four styles ($10 to $18).
On a first visit: A bento set will give you a terrific overview of the menu beyond sushi. Get the tempura bento and you’ll get a fat stack of tempura-fried veggies and shrimp, plus rice, marinated vegetables, a shaved cucumber salad, rice, salad and miso ($18).
The rainbow roll is the fanciest of the sushi list and came topped with shimmering slices of salmon, tuna, hamachi, shrimp and eel draped over a California roll ($15). Tuna nigiri tasted purely oceanic with a little dab of wasabi layered between fish and rice. I marveled at the $5.50 pricetag for the big, fat pieces.
When you see the words “hot spicy” on the menu, take that seriously. I bit into the hot spicy tuna roll and tasted massive heat ($12). You’ve been warned.
You could assemble an entire meal from appetizers here and it might be a fun visit to do that. I loved the crunchy breaded karaage, adorned simply with a lemon wedge and nothing else ($8). Takoyaki were creamy octopus dumplings with a light and crunchy exterior ($8). I pledge to return for the yakitori ($7).
Sake and beer: None yet, but they’re working on it.
TIP: There’s no sign on the building. Look for the sandwich board out front. It’s right next to Guitar Center.
Where: 2919 S 38th St., Tacoma; 253-302-4445
CAKE WINDOW AND CAKESHOP COMING TO TACOMA’S SIXTH AVENUE NEIGHBORHOOD
Did you catch my story about The Cat & Rabbitt Cakeshop? It’s coming to Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Read about that here.