People around here love a good happy hour deal and I am here to let you in on a great secret. Oto Sushi, tucked behind Walgreens in Kirkland’s Juanita Village, offers happy hour deals not only during the traditional pre-dinner slot, but also during lunch.
Don’t be confused by the menu paper titled “Lunch Specials.” Skip that in lieu of the other crumpled sheet filled with half-price rolls, $3 sides like tempura and gyoza or a 99 cent (seriously!) pitcher of hot sake.
The menu situation is quite overwhelming. If you happen to want a few pieces of sashimi or nigiri, you will need the multi-page stapled menu to find the list. And though my parents would appreciate the generous font size of the supplemental menus, I suggest a reduction and reorganization of the various components.
Sifting through the menu mess is like going on a treasure hunt. There are jewels to be found by digging deep enough in the sand. In this case, the sand is anything that is fried. Avoid the greasy panko-covered tempura vegetables and gyoza. Go for the good stuff.
Start with a very fresh Wakame Salad, slightly sweet seaweed full of vital nutrients. The Oto version is delicately dressed with sesame oil and seeds. A tiny mound of glass noodles tops the pile of julienned vegetables.
The Godzilla Roll was lightly fried, sliced and drizzled with the light orange Japanese version of aioli. The color comes from a generous squeeze of Sriracha. Oto’s chef artfully plated the Godzilla like an organic pinwheel, eschewing the boring line usually associated with a sliced roll.
I love a good Spider Roll filled with the satisfying crunch of fried soft shell crab. But, I never have learned how to eat the end pieces that always seem to be decorated with a protruding crab claw. I feel like I'm committing a sushi misdemeanor dismantling that last piece just to make it more bite-sized.
The Fire Alarm Roll was more like a practice drill than the real thing lacking anything resembling the heat expected from a dish with this title. Sure, it was tasty, but the promised jalapenos didn’t deliver their usual kick.
Fortunately, the nigiri was excellent. Like the buttery bite of Unagi (freshwater eel) perched atop sushi rice and belted with a thin strand of seaweed. And the Maguro (yellowfin tuna) glowed like a ruby with a clean, fresh taste.
Great sushi is all about balance -- flavor, texture, color and heat are equally important factors. Oto Sushi may be a small restaurant with menu issues, but it delivers on fresh flavorful rolls and good quality raw ingredients. And if you follow my advice and stop in during happy hour, you’ll walk away with a full belly and a barely lightened wallet.
Oto Sushi is open Mon-Fri for lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; happy hour is served at lunch and from 4:30-6 p.m. Mon-Fri; Saturday and Sunday from 3-6 p.m. Dinner is served until 10 p.m. Sun-Thurs; 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 425-825-8899 for To-Go orders.