Seattle’s greatest Japanese supermarket was at a low point a year ago when the pandemic kicked in. Sales plummeted right as they started a long-planned, disruptive remodel. Their building, with condos and apartments above, was leaking. A typical situation for modern Seattle construction projects. Ask me about Belltown Court, the McGuire or dozens of other downtown Seattle high rises that needed expensive rehab soon after completion. Seems that certain actors in the real estate industry like to cut corners in order to increase short term profits. The lawyers sort it out later.
But now Uwajimaya is back! The remodeled store is better than ever, with an improved butcher counter and a stunning seafood section.
Sea bass cheeks. Live uni. Octopus. A massive sushi operation. Sturgeon! They were pulling 10 foot long sturgeon out of the Columbia River until the fishery was decimated in the late 1890s, when the last of the sometimes 100 year old creatures were killed to near extinction. They farm them now, and the wild population is making sort of a comeback. There is even West Coast sturgeon caviar in our future.
Sturgeon have a unique and delicate flavor, unlike other bottom-feeders like carp and catfish that, especially when farmed, can have a muddy algae taste. Which is why you add Cajun spice to the catfish and garlic chili oil to the carp. Sturgeon is best broiled or grilled and served with a slice of lemon and nothing else.
Uwajimaya has stores in Bellevue, Renton and Beaverton, Oregon. The International District location is a tourist attraction and a destination for food lovers from around the Seattle. Their base of Japanese-American customers from the neighborhood diminished during WW2 when said customers were forced into concentration camps and then settled elsewhere upon release. This small chain of grocery stores owned by the same family since 1928 has survived many events.
Uwajimaya is one of the reasons property values in Seattle are so high. Being able to drive a few short miles to a store like this is a privilege.
600 5th Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98104
Here’s a great seafood recipe from Uwajimaya that uses fish found in the Pacific Northwest : Sake Steamed Halibut and Manila Clams with Yellow Bean Sauce.
My dad used to take me to bars in New York City that were all called The Blarney Stone and they all had a free corned beef and cabbage buffet. Which was not that great. A dive bar needs not maintain a glorious buffet. More recently I scored this $3.99 per pound chunk of supermarket corned beef. Not much nutritional value but the salt content will make you hungry for body-healing boiled cabbage and potatoes with a side of mustard. Also - ionta Guinness, le do thoil! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
Feeding a family on a budget means American-style taco night! Flour tortillas. And supermarket corn tortillas. A can of beans, a $4.99 pork tenderloin sliced thin and cooked in onions and taco spice. Cilantro. Other stuff. Good. Also good - a bizarre Pacific Northwest fast food chain called Taco Time that serves tater tots but calls them Mexi-Fries®.
Get ready for some posts that are about donating food, posts that are not just musings about caviar and corned beef. On my way to Uwajimaya I saw people living in tents everywhere - more so than at any time since the Great Depression, when a shantytown called Hooverville occupied the space where the pro sports stadiums now sit, only hundreds of feet away from Uwajimaya’s current location. It’s gonna be a busy Spring.