15555 NE 24th Ave
Bellevue WA 98007
Convenient and Decent Japanese Food
By: Grant Y
Located next to the Uwajimaya in Bellevue, Kiku Sushi has a high bar of expectations considering the amount of native diners that must pass day by day. In Japanese, the word ‘kiku’ itself translates to chrysanthemum, a popular flower used in Japan for tea and ceremonies. With a name and location like that, the need for a review was certainly expected.
Our review team dropped in during lunch, where we found the restaurant packed and with a wait list. The wait staff was quite busy attending their tables, so we wrote in our names onto the pad, but a waitress came by a few minutes later to ensure that everyone would be seated in the right order. Our wait took about 15 minutes in total, but our server was very good about keeping us updated on the status of the tables, which we appreciated. A few reviewers having been to Kiku Sushi before, can vouch that it’s not normally this crowded during dinner.
The inside of the restaurant was fairly charming, with quite a few Japanese wooden paneling hanging from the ceiling and acting as dividers between the sushi bar, tables and the main seating area. It’s not a large restaurant, with perhaps
Once seated, we ordered the yakiniku lunch special (check the front board for the day’s special), the chicken katsu curry, una don (eel rice bowl) and some salmon and uni nigiri. Our reviewers thought that all of the meals were fairly good, but didn’t stand out from many of the other Japanese restaurants in the area. On the sushi, it was also noted that the cuts were very rough, looking as if a dull blade or amateur sushi chef was making the sushi that day. While this is not a sticking point in taste, sushi is part presentation and craft, which does factor into the overall score.
Like most Japanese restaurants we have reviewed, service is rarely a problem and Kiku Sushi is no exception. Our order was taken promptly, food came out in reasonable time, check-ups were made on the table and our bill was brought out and taken care of with good timing.
In terms of value, the food and portions are both good, but the prices are slightly higher at Kiku Sushi than other Japanese restaurants in the area. Nigiri averages about $5 each and lunch meals hover a little about $10, though the una don was $19.
Overall, we felt that Kiku Sushi is decent for a lunch meal or just a regular dinner, but if you’re not from the surrounding area, we didn’t feel there was a huge draw to come by.
The una don, which is bbq fresh water eel on rice was ok, but I had higher expectations. The servings were fairly generous, but at its price, I would certainly hope for that to be the case. The grilled eel was slightly sweet and mild in flavor. The texture was of a mildly tough fish somewhat like salmon. It had a fair few fine bones however. The rice was generous and decent, garnished with a few flakes of nori which helped add a bit of flavor.
The uni (sea urchin) was also mild in flavor, a creamy (but slightly too watery) complexion and had a subtle and light sweetness. Not bad, but wouldn’t recommend to anyone who is squeamish about eating sea urchin gonads.
I enjoyed the cucumber salad. The clean taste of fresh cucumber mixed well with the sour flavor of a light vinegar. The addition of two, small chilled shrimp was a good touch. The shrimp slightly absorb the sour flavor and as a result have a pleasant taste. The miso soup was quite good and had a richness of flavor not encountered in most restaurants.
On service, it was really crowded and so the servers were forgivably rushed. We had to wait quite some time but the servers attempted to assure us that we had not been forgotten. They sweetly apologized several times. Our order was taken quickly and accurately and the food came out very fast given how crowded it was. For the most part, we were left to our own devices but were occasionally checked upon.
The ambiance was decent, but not great. Japanese was clearly the theme but the thematic elements chaotically ranged from wall silks to slightly tacky giant plastic “lucky cats”. The lighting was a bit dim which during dark fall days can be a bit unpleasant. The flooring, accent black and white linoleum tiles, were unappealing. The chairs were also somewhat uncomfortable and cheap looking. It is fun though to watch the sushi bar and see the chefs create their dishes however.
$19 for my una don plus $4 for the urchin resulted in an expensive lunch. The portions were fair and filling, but the price didn’t quite seem to justify it. It was reasonably interesting and enjoyable to eat, but not so much so that I would encourage others to try it for the same price.
Katsu was fried well, with a crisp, think katsu layer that stuck to the chicken, while the meat was fairly moist. Good execution on a common dish. The curry tasted a bit like the S&B packet curry that is sold at Uwajimaya and would even guess more so due to the post MSG feeling that I got. It’s not bad (S&B is popular, no?), but I just avoid the MSG when I can.
Cucumber was quite vinegar tasting and had much less sugar than other similar cucumber salads. I personally did not go for it and prefer a much less acidic salad vs pickled cucumber taste. Miso soup was fine, with miso and some sofu, but no seaweed.
Salmon nigiri tasted ok and fairly fresh (not the freshest around), but the major mishap was the cut. The first piece looked as if the fish had been mangled in half with a missed chop and put together again. The second piece looked as if it was cut with a butter knife, with serrated edges that looked torn on the fish. Salmon sashimi cuts aren’t supposed to have perfect edges like tuna due to the meat, but this is a ‘sushi’ restaurant and it should deliver on the goods.
On service, pretty much agree with Bryan, in that service was good about keeping us updated during our wait and did a fine job overall.
Kiku Sushi’s interior, though not incredibly fancy, can charm up a small hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. There’s limited seating with about five, four-person tables and about an equal amount of two seaters (plus bar seating). Lots of Japanese woodwork and paneling on the walls and ceilings, plus the lights are dim, but not dark. Lots of small decor like natural wood framed mirrors, fans and other trinkets help round out the feel to the restaurant. Chairs are quite comfortable too.
Meals are a little pricey at Kiku’s, with the nigiri going for $5 per pair. The nigiri isn’t small, but it’s not large either and there isn’t much presentation or chef skill that shows why it should be more than the oft standard of $4 or so. Gyoza runs at $6.50 as well. Your best bets are the more modestly priced bento specials or other ‘don’ dishes.
The yakiniku was somewhat similar to teriyaki, but the meat was cooked with onions and teriyaki sauce. The meat tasted as if it was prepared grilled, but was not as overpowering or salty as I would have thought from first glance. With a more tender consistency than teriyaki, It went down easy and had a sweet aftertaste to counter some of the saltiness.
The sushi was unimpressive. The pieces seemed sliced with a extremely dull blade. At first glance the edges of the sushi seemed very jagged and uneven. You might assume that it is because of the bento box ordering, but even the regular pieces seemed a little off. The cutting might have been bad, but they didn’t seem to skimp on fish, unlike Koi (in Bellevue).
The croquette that came with the bento is best described as a potato salad that is deep fried, with a spattering of katsu sauce on top. Had a unique mouth feel transitioning from crunchy to creamy rather quickly, which I didn’t take to.
The service was decent, but the place was packed so it took awhile to get seated. Other than that, we got served very fast and the food came out really quick. Staff seemed friendly enough, but only checked up on us once after the food was served.
Kiku Sushi was very cramped on the inside and had some dim lighting that made things rather dark. The seating consisted of only a few big tables that seated four and a smaller section with some tables that sat about two people each.
The prices were decent, but the bento box is probably the best deals. You get four different menu items with your meal and it only costs $1 more than the other lunch entrée items. The quality was good but not spectacular. Left me feeling very full so decent value at $10
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