For chef Sun Hong, quality fish, seaweed, and perfectly seasoned rice are, each, a given. What matters is the tae — “the hand,” the style, the detail, and the finishing of each creation he wants to serve.
“Your hand is your signature,” Hong tells CHS. After a run of popular pop-ups around the city, Hong is brining to his By Tae handrolls to Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row.
By Tae is taking over the walk-up counter inside the Chophouse Row complex behind Marmite, Spirit in the Bottle, and the Amandine bakery where creperie Petite Galette drew some loyal customers but ultimately shuttered after less than a year of business.
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Hong says Chophouse’s warren mix of small shops, bars, and restaurants is the right starting place for his focus on detail. “It’s like four stools and a counter,” he said. Even the paint job from the previous venture already matched the By Tae logo.
The counter will serve handrolls and sake and will have handrolls ready for pickup and go if you want to eat on the run. Hong’s approach to sushi is, well… he doesn’t even want the limit of calling it “sushi.”
“I don’t want to be pigeonholed,” Hong said. “It’s a national dish. A lot of people, they have specific way of how it should be. I don’t really want to follow those rules.”
Hong’s approach, instead, is shaped by what types of fish he most wants to work with across the seasons. He is also concerned about the ocean’s health and the future of the industry.
“I think about that every night,” Hong said. “There’s not really a right on answer. I think about it myself. Being conscious about where the industry is at right now is good. Trying to make small decisions about where fish and such comes from.”
Hong said those small decisions are part of the reason he has chosen to focus on a small space and handrolls featuring four “fish of the day.” With a larger restaurant and a larger menu, the challenges of sourcing 30 or so types of fish doesn’t always lend itself to the best decisions for the planet.
These days, Hong loves to work with “silver bellied fish” like smelt, sardines, or mackerel. But, like any
sushi fish chef, he enjoys getting his hands on something like a big hamachi, too.
In addition to his by hand aesthetic, Tae runs through Hong’s life as a philosophy and theme. He grew up with it. Tae was his grandma’s name. And it’s the name of his 15-year-old daughter. Tae will be in charge of setting up the new By Tae website — with plenty of by hand style, surely — before the planned opening. With keys now, also, in hand, Hong said he is hoping to have his new counter up and running in November.
By Tae is planned to open next month inside Chophouse Row at 1424 11th Ave. Until Tae is done with her work, you can follow along and learn more at instagram.com/bytaeseattle.