Canadian-born Suika izakaya arrives on Capitol Hill

Makoto Kimoto is taking the quiet approach to launching a new food+drink venture on Capitol Hill (Images: Josh Kelety for CHS)

Makoto Kimoto is taking the quiet approach to launching a new food+drink venture on Capitol Hill (Images: Josh Kelety for CHS)

Vancouver BC is spilling over onto Capitol Hill, ever so quietly. Tucked into 611 E Pine, the space that formerly housed the 611 Supreme during its 18 year run, is a little slice of Vancouver, Japan and Korea: the Suika izakaya-style bar and restaurant.

Its soft opening earlier this week was as low profile as their hushed start of work on the space back in August. And that’s apparently intentional. “I don’t want to do any marketing or anything, just let people talk, if they like it,” said Makoto Kimoto, co-owner of both Suika Seattle and Suika Vancouver.

Originally from Japan, Kimoto has been living in Vancouver for the past seven years, working in the restaurant business with fellow entrepreneur and co-owner of both the Canadian and Seattle Suika restaurants, Minoru Tamaru. Tamaru and Kimoto have opened a total of four restaurants, eateries, and bars across Canada, with Suika Seattle the fifth to join the family.

“We did the research and we decided last June to come down to Seattle,” said Kimoto.

Suika is part of a new wave of Asian-flavored restaurants opening on Capitol Hill. It joins spring 2014-born Shibumi in the Capitol Hill izakaya arena. As for the BC takeover of Capitol Hill food and drink, it has begun. Next comes Gastown’s Meat & Bread in the Central Agency building joining recently re-opened Lark and its myriad new offspring.

An izakaya is aimed to serve a variety of purposes, from providing filling meals to full bar and appetizer service. But according to Kimoto, sharing is a key feature woven into Suika’s menu. “Most of our dishes are to share. It’s not [just] for people to come and order individually,” he said.

The menu features a mix of Korean and Japanese bar food and sashimi. You’ll find standards like battered tiger prawns and short ribs and more exotic selections of marinated fish, egg puddings, kimchi offerings, salads, and noodle dishes. It’s food meant for drinking — and drinking meant for food.

All purpose seems to be the name of Suika’s game. “If you want to do a [full] course, that’s fine, you just want to eat some apis and go home that’s fine. Bring friends, drink some cocktails, go to another bar that’s fine. It’s whatever you want,” said Kimoto.

Suika also makes its own ginger ale to quench your thirst and spice up the cocktails. Fruit and sake sangria with chunks of mandarin orange, apple, and lychee, is Suika Seattle’s house speciality.

As for the Suika’s look and feel, manager Kan Terao — who has a background in building wooden longhouses in Canada — led the charge.

Suika’s new home has been outfitted to fit the aesthetic of the nearly 100-year-old brick building as well as  that of an authentic Japanese izakaya and sake watering hole.

“We wanted to make everything antique and mix some Asian and Japanese tastes. I think it comes out pretty good,” said Terao.

He said many of the restaurant’s quirks were products of spontaneity.

IMG_5282“As we went, the ideas started to come up. A lot of the stuff wasn’t in the original plan,” said Terao.

Some of the restaurant’s notable decorative features include an impressive array of Nintendo game cassettes from the 80s, a makeshift shrine to Godzilla, Ultraman, and other vintage Japanese action figures, and a chandelier made up of 88 empty sake bottles and LED lights. The bottle collection was compiled from the recycling of various local Japanese restaurants, the crew at Suika says.

The Nintendo board has some nostalgic value for Terao, who remembers when he was in elementary school first playing the platform. He hopes future patrons of Suika will feel a similar connection. “As soon as they see it they’ll be like “Oh wow! I played this thing!”

The quiet opening comes with Kimoto’s desire to work out kinks in Suika’s in-house operations during the first week with the new staff. The official grand opening is scheduled for next Monday, December 15th, but it will be just like any other business day, according to Kimoto.

Kimoto aspires for Suika to become a neighborhood favorite with locals making the bar and restaurant a regular stop. “’Oh I’m hungry, just go to Suika. Oh you went yesterday? That’s fine, let’s go to Suika.’ That’s the thing I’m looking for,” Kimoto said. “Nothing high end. We just try hard, work hard, to make the place festive.”

You’ll find Suika Seattle at 611 E Pine. Hours are currently limited — 5 PM to 9 PM last we checked — but expect that to change as final times are sorted out. You’ll also reportedly find weekend brunch on offer starting at 10:30 AM on Saturdays and Sundays. In the meantime, check the Suika Seattle Facebook page for updates.

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