A Japanese Culinary Affair in Bellevue

Japanese immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century built their fortune by creating and managing farmland in Bellevue. According to the Eastside Heritage Center, the Japanese farmers got together to initiate the first Bellevue Strawberry Festival in 1925, which continued until 1942. Today, with global tech and gaming corporations in the area, the Japanese population and culture continues to flourish in Bellevue. With that, a heavenly selection of Japanese cuisine spreads across Bellevue's foodscape. With omakase from master sushi chefs and cultural fusion sushi abound, here's the story of Takai by Kashiba, a Japanese culinary legacy in Bellevue.

Takai By Kashiba: A Legacy of Sushi-making

Address: 180 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

An intimate omakase

Behind the sushi bar at Takai by Kashiba,

Master Chef Jun Takai astutely stands with his sushi chefs next to freshly made sushi rice, in preparation for the Edo-mae style omakase dinner service. The small and elegant space is well lit, with floor to ceiling windows facing Bellevue Way. 

The evening will begin with a sake cup, a traditional welcome offering to guests of honor, before Takai begins to tailor each omakase experience to the sushi bar patrons. Kanpai. Omakase is Japanese for “I leave it up to you,” entrusting the chef to guide you through the night. You’re in for a treat.  

Chef Jun grew up working as a young fishmonger for his uncle’s fish markets in Kyoto before getting into sushi restaurants. Today, he likes to play with the aging of fish, which is beautifully demonstrated through the aged ama ebi, or sweet shrimp. 



The Godfather of Seattle Sushi

The story though, really starts in Tokyo with Chef Shiro Kashiba. 

Shiro had just finished high school when he began an apprenticeship in the Ginza district, under the watchful eye of Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame. Studiously climbing his way up from washing dishes to preparing sushi, Chef Shiro arrived at Sea-Tac in 1966 at 25 years old. As Jiro's first apprentice in Tokyo, Chef Shiro Kashiba brought the coveted Edo-mae style sushi to the Pacific Northwest. Edo-mae sushi is whatever can be harvested from the local Tokyo Bay waters, and here in the Puget Sound, Chef Shiro began familiarizing himself with the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. 

Through many storied sushi tales, which are beautifully told in the Seattle Met, Chef Shiro opened Shiro in Belltown, and later Kashiba at Pike Place. Here, he made his mark as a three-time James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Chef and was appointed as the official Goodwill Ambassador of Japanese Cuisine by the Government of Japan. Chef Shiro visits Chef Jiro Ono annually, with the exception of the pandemic, and recently joyfully reunited with Jiro san, who is still making sushi 4 days a week. 

A decade ago, Chef Shiro went to Japan on a recruiting trip, where he found Chef Jun Takai and brought him back to the states as an apprentice. After training with Chef Shiro and learning about the incredible bounty of seafood in the Pacific Northwest, Master Chef Jun Takai achieved the highest level of support and enthusiasm to take on the Kashibas' newest restaurant, Takai by Kashiba in Bellevue.

Premium Sushi Experience in Bellevue

After arriving in Seattle, Chef Jun Takai apprenticed under Shiro Kashiba for ten years at Shiro's Sushi in Seattle, and later I Love Sushi on Lake Bellevue, before being entrusted as head apprentice at Takai by Kashiba.

Here, the premium experience is enjoyed while seated at the nine-seat sushi counter - the Chef's Counter Experience - offering a more intimate omakase with Chef. Each guest's experience is fully bespoke, as Chef Takai and his sushi chefs prepare nigiri after nigiri.

The negitoro handroll is served with ikura on a bed of rice and wrapped with nori that is particularly crunchy when you sink your teeth into it. The King Mackerel nigiri is a refined delight for fans of saba. There's a chawanmushi in the 22-course omakase, a beautiful steamed egg with accoutrements from the sea. The Spanish akami bluefin tuna is cured for 12 days and marinated with soy sauce for a true party in your mouth.

Sushi enthusiasts know that tamago is a special Japanese art, and the tamago at Takai by Kashiba is a special affair, delicately served with an elegant hojicha ice cream. With each bite, you can taste the labor of love and the decades of sushi-craft.

There are no substitutions, a la carte or vegan/vegetarian options for this special experience. For allergies, please inform the Chef beforehand.



A special miso black cod

The dining room seating omakase is priced lower and you get to enjoy interacting with the incredibly knowledgeable servers. Here, you are able to order the chef's omakase or enjoy the regular dinner menu. It's understated, but there's a Black Cod on the menu, made with miso, mirin, and sake lees. This is a recipe that Chef Shiro Kashiba had been serving in Seattle since the 1980s, most notably recognized by the New York Times in 1988 as a "new" dish making waves out of the Pacific Northwest. Now, it is one of the most classic Japanese staples served across the United States and the world.

Japanese Whiskey, and a special deluxe Omakase Box

The six-seat whiskey bar, featuring a wide selection of Japanese whiskeys, is a wonderful option for solo diners and travelers, where you can also order a la carte.

Chef Takai also creates a limited number of takeaway Deluxe Omakase Box per open day, which is filled with premium nigiri sushi, sashimi, chirashi, and seasonal sides. This to-go option can be reserved on Tock.  

A Conversation with Ed Kashiba

Shiro Kashiba's son, Edwin Kashiba, was in Hollywood making feature films and mingling with the stars before returning to the Pacific Northwest to help open Takai by Kashiba. Ed still reminisces about the days on set with Jerry Bruckheimer when he worked on G-Force, or in Hawaii when working on the film 50 First Dates. He's met both Bill Nighy and Bill Nye.

When his dad began talking about the next chapter, Ed knew it was time to return home and carry on the legacy. He tells us that the Bellevue community has welcomed Takai by Kashiba with open arms, with regulars opting to enjoy their offerings weekly.

He's here managing the business in Bellevue, proudly carrying on the Kashiba name. There's a beautiful calligraphy hanging above the Whiskey Bar, which is crafted by his mother, a master calligrapher recognized by the Government in Japan. 

The Kashibas have certainly made their mark.