Every evening, around 11 PM, when chef Hideaki Taneda gets back to his home in Lynnwood, he goes out to the artesian well and fills three 10-gallon jugs with the pure, untreated water straight from an aquifer more than 120 feet below the surface. He uses it to cook rice and make soup at his new restaurant Taneda, tucked away on the lower floor of the Broadway Alley mall, the retail complex also home to Americana, Kimchi Bistro, sushi restaurant HaNa, and Tacos Chukis.
“We think it is snowmelt. My family and I have been drinking it for years,” Taneda says. “It tastes completely different.”
To say Taneda has an eye for detail would be an understatement. Everything in his dinner-only traditional kaiseki-style sushi restaurant, which opened on Valentine’s day, is meticulously thought-out and executed to precisely fit Taneda’s dream.
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CHS is not exaggerating: Taneda flew three Japanese carpenters over from California to have them custom build the perfect, 9-seat Japanese white birch counter that now slices through the intimate, oblong space. The dinnerware and plates used to serve omakase-style sushi and side dishes were a gift of a friend of Taneda’s from Kyoto. To season the fish, he grates a block of sea salt. The Japanese-born chef also makes his own wasabi, vinegar (a blend of rice vinegar, milder red vinegar, and a third ‘secret’ vinegar) and bonito-flake infused soy sauce, which he paints on the plates with a brush — no dipping here.
“I want the exact taste,” Taneda says. “Some customers want to dip it in, but I don’t like that. I like it measured.”
Taneda has had almost ten years to plan his perfect culinary concept. “I’ve been thinking about this and dreaming about this for almost ten years,” he says. “Also, I wanted to make some money first (laughs).”
Technically, he’s spent the last 30 years laying the groundwork for it. After graduating from the Miyazaki Culinary School in Japan at age 17, he moved to Tokyo to train in sushi and kaiseki cuisine — a multi-course Japanese haute cuisine dinner that changes with the seasons— for about fifteen years. Since moving to Seattle, he’s worked for about 15 more years in local sushi restaurants. He was the creator behind the bar at Lake Union’s I Love Sushi and was also part of the ownership behind Fremont Bowl.
Late last year, the time was finally right. Taneda bought the Laotian-flavored Lao Bar, which closed late in the fall. Lao Bar was just one of the small businesses and restaurants that couldn’t quite make it in Broadway Alley, which can be a challenging business environment due to its separation from the street.
Taneda’s not worried about that, he says. “We’re reservation-only, so we don’t rely on foot traffic as much,” he says. “I also really like this building. It’s historic; it’s a hundred years old. I like to feel this kind of American history.”
Being somewhat hidden from the street, Taneda adds, is part of the concept. He wants it to be an intimate space. “I don’t want to be on the street side.” In Japan, he says, this type of smaller restaurants tucked away in alleyways or bigger buildings are very common. That’s what he wanted to recreate.
Thanks to his exacting style and level of detail, Taneda might just become a destination restaurant. An upscale restaurant is the odd one out in the Broadway Alley building, which also houses nail salon, a tobacco shop and more inexpensive eateries such as HaNa and Tacos Chukis.
A sampler menu at Taneda starts at $78 per person, the Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki Ultimate Omakase (chef’s choice) menu at $100, for eight kinds of appetizer (otsumami) and 15 pieces of sushi, prepared in front of the diners.
Making everything on demand and fresh, says Taneda, is only possible with extreme preparation (and two other chefs). He gets to the restaurant at 9 AM in the morning for his prep work, which includes making soups, wasabi, vinegar and soy sauce as well as the precise process of aging fish. “The fish has to be extremely fresh. I gut the fish entirely and then refrigerate it and use salt to age it, similar to aging beef. It gives it so much more flavor and texture. I’m currently doing it with tuna and greater amberjack, kampachi, which I’ve aged for ten days. People say it melts in your mouth”
Taneda says he’s hoping to have two services per (weekday) night, from 5:30 to 7:30 and from 7:45 to 9:45.
Then, after an 11-hour day, he’ll go home again, and fill the jugs with water.
Taneda is located at 219 Broadway E in the Broadway Alley. You can learn more at tanedaseattle.com.