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The kaiten belt at Broadway’s Saizen Sushi has come to a halt — UPDATE: Fro-yo chain incoming

Less than a year after debuting in the Joule building, Saizen Sushi has apparently turned off its conveyor belt and is clearing out its space. Details and pictures from tipsters Art and Todd:

Saizen Sushi has a sign posted that they are “closed for today only”.  However, there is currently a small army taking out all of the furniture and putting it in a U Haul that’s parked right out front.

Last summer, CHS talked briefly with Saizen restauranteur Kevin Kim. “We celebrate really good quality and fresh meat,” he told CHS. “Everything will be fresh.” Kim said Saizen was his first restaurant after running a smoke shop business selling pipes and cigars on Aurora.


The Stranger had recently mentioned Saizen as the only Joule commercial tenant that is “a single, independent business.” Make that was. A person familiar with the situation said the restaurant had been struggling to make rent for months We’ve left messages with Saizen and Kim and will follow up if we hear more.

Capitol Hill’s sushi options remain strong with Sushi Maki, Liberty, Pinto ThaiAoki, Hana, Octo, Momiji, Genki and, um, QFC still providing solutions for your avocado roll and sashimi needs.

Thanks again to Art and Todd for the pictures.

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43 thoughts on “The kaiten belt at Broadway’s Saizen Sushi has come to a halt — UPDATE: Fro-yo chain incoming

  1. I feel bad for this place. It was pretty clear from the get-go that they weren’t going to do well. There is already an abundance of sushi places on the Hill (including conveyor belt sushi) and the set-up of their restaurant wasn’t the best. It’s a huge space and the belts are so far away from the windows. I think that if they had pushed the bar angle a little better (there aren’t too many places to drink up at the north end of broadway), they could have fared better.
    For the past several months all their sushi was $2 each… it was pretty clear they were on their way to closing.

  2. They were only a decade late with the cheap conveyer belt sushi concept. Once they plastered the windows with the $1.99-for-any-item posters they scared off any remaining potential customers. The rest of the Joule is filling up with small tenants. Don’t think this space will be vacant for long. Heres hoping the future tenant will consider the local competition and try something slightly original.

  3. It’s sad to see them close, but I can’t say it wasn’t unexpected. I’m not a sushi snob, and don’t mind the occasional conveyor belt sushi place, but I walked past this place every day at prime hours and it never had more than 5-10 customers in it. It scared me off as a potential customer since, with so few people, who knows how long the items had been on the belt for.

    Genki Sushi way down the street isn’t the highest-quality, but it’s always busy, so I’d rather walk there if I’m in the mood for cheap conveyor belt sushi, even though Saizen was so much closer to me.

    Anyway, I hope all is well with the people involved, at least.

  4. I only ate there once, so i might not have the whole picture, but the quality was downright poor. I mean if even QFC has CLEARLY better quality, that’s got to be a concern. The selection on the belt was extremely limited and it was more expensive than Genki or QFC. And the space was uncomfortable. I never considered going back.

    I didn’t realize it was locally owned, it looked like a chain. We do need more locally owned things on Broadway, if they had pushed that angle, it almost surely would’ve gotten me in for a second chance.

  5. I live right around the corner from Saizen and love going there. They had the best quality for belt sushi in the immediate area (left Genki feeling ill both times I ate there) and Saizen also had a really gorgeous interior.

    Everyone there was always cheerful and friendly and we never had a complaint about the service.

    This makes me sad. I, for one, will definitely miss them! :(

  6. It’s sorta an eyesore right now, since it has so many windows. That is a pretty huge space for a yoga place, there’s even a loft second floor (with elevator). That plus being on the corner facing toward the busiest part of Broadway E must mean crazy rent.

    Is there any new news on Eat Local? As I recall there are boards over the windows (a recent development) so I’m hoping it’s under construction inside. I’m sure I’m not the only single dude on the hill who doesn’t cook and is sick of frozen dinners every night.

  7. Never love seeing a business go down, but what lender in their right mind would finance ANOTHER sushi or Thai restaurant on Broadway. Oh yeah, the same one who’s financing a “fro-yo” place…

    How about we get a GOOD sandwich joint on b-way? Or at least another Pho place!

  8. I recognize that this building came on the market during an unprecedented recession, but I’m still really disappointed in the developer. He met with a community group I used to belong to and talked up the “destination retail” they were planning to have in the Joule. The wanted higher-end stores to avoid replicating the proliferation of low-end locations on Broadway and something that would really “draw people to Capitol Hill.” HA!

    I had high hopes that they’d go after something like Zara. I still can’t believe we don’t have one in Seattle…just goes to show how “not international” we are in some ways when the world’s largest clothing retailer doesn’t even consider our market worthwhile.

    But the stores that have gone in at the Joule are, sadly, nothing special and they certainly aren’t going to encourage people to come and shop, eat, play on the Hill.

    Such a missed opportunity. I feel duped by the developer, too.

  9. We really need a good sandwich joint!

    And a Bakery. PLEASE!!! A bakery. Columbia City or Essential type place.

    And we need hardware, electronics and so much more. Just no more Thai or bars!

  10. My first experience at this restaurant was to be seated at the long counter on the peripheral seating area. This placed my friend and I perpendicular to an adjoining table. The close proximity with no physical divider (like an eye-level panel of frosted glass) was uncomfortably close to the table of four people directly in front of us. We might as well have been sitting with them at the end of their table. It was so uncomfortable we ate one dish and got out of there.

    This was Saizen’s first sin in restaurant design and operation. Never neglect your clienteles’ sense of privacy and space. Force them too close and in direct eye contact with strangers directly opposite can create emotional uneasiness. No one wants a staring contest or feel you can’t talk openly with friends when strangers sit 18 inches away….chewing their food and looking at you.

    For restaurants, good food brings people in, the “setting” creates the social comfort, together these two aspects give an enjoyable if not fun experience. Negate one, and people won’t come back.


  11. Yeah, it seems this little place did not know how to market themselves. Big colorful signs with discount percentages are a really good way to make it look like you’re unsuccessful.

  12. Saizen started off with some of the highest quality fish on Capitol Hill, but that degraded over time. I’m guessing the small amount of business wasn’t enough to justify purchasing (and then wasting) the high quality stuff. When they got to the $2 specials, they became just another Genki, and I don’t eat at Genki.

  13. it IS a shame. I really liked the place. Given a choice between eating Genki or eating my own feces, I’d pick my own feces. Genki is about the same quality. But then again, you put out Spam roll for $1.50 and market it to community college folk, you guarantee yourself some business.

  14. Please, no more sushi, Thai or Asian food spots. C’mon folks…be original!!! A great deli maybe??? Dot’s in Fremont is magnificent. How about a craft beer store? Have you been to The Beer Junction in West Seattle?!?! Such a great place. Asian food is OVER-represented on ‘The Hill. Diversity…right?!?!

  15. anyone else notice that the corner residential unit on broadway and republican has been vacant for several months now?

    Rot in your “high end” hell, Joule developers.

  16. Right-on! When I go out with a friend to a restaurant, I want to share that experience/conversation with my friend, not a group of strangers. I am surprised that “communal tables” have been a part of many newer places…I would not feel at all comfortable at one of those. But I think they are probably just a fad and will fade away as restauteurs realize it’s not what most people want.

  17. Joule is not the most beautiful new building around, but it’s not all that bad. Just remember what was there before…an outdated QFC, parking lot, Taco Time, and an ugly 50s apartment building….isn’t Joule better than that?

    And at the very least it helps to increase urban density…a good thing.

  18. Owner stated bad management and had the sushi belt among other stuff for sale online.


    1. Their Sign… LOOKS super cheap, you can’t read it.. it screams dollar store.
    2. Windows were always dirty
    3. Don’t discount your food! Giving deals doesn’t mean more people will come in..

    This really is horrible and as a small business owner I can really feel for them and their situation.

    Best bet is for them to let someone take over their lease and give them everything inside the business as a bonus.

    Best of luck!

  19. I’ve been wondering when they were going to close for the past 4 months or so. I ate there once, maybe twice, it was not exceptional, and not cheap at the time. I’d chose Aiko over it just about any day after those experiences. And I’d chose Momiji over any other sushi options on the hill if I were going to walk more than 5 blocks from home.

    The space was WAY too large (just as Mod Pizza is, BTW) for the density of the north broadway neighborhood. And we are completely over saturated with east asian food options (Thai, Sushi, Pho, Udon, and other fusion options). I am not sure what could FILL that space given how large it is.

    We could really use an ope-seven-days “diner” like restaurant with a variety of quality food for each meal at affordable prices. Basically, if Skillet were to open a new location there, I think it would do great. There is really no where to eat week-day mornings other than Kanape and Jo Bar on that end of broadway. But then again, if Deluxe doesn’t think it worthwhile to offer weekday breakfast, perhaps there is not enough market to sustain it.

  20. Are you assuming it’s vacant because there’s a sign in the window saying it’s available, or have you seen inside the unit? It wouldn’t totally shock me if it was vacant, as the floorplan sitting on that corner starts at $2700 a month (that would be the price on the second floor most likely). It’s a colossal nearly 1300 square foot 2 bedroom with office or flex space.

    Joule is so full that it’s a race to prelease units, they rarely go vacant for more time than is needed for the crews to come in and clean and paint.

    You can wish bad things upon the developers all you want but really, how has it hurt you? Do you miss the parking lot and taco time? It’s not like they came in, destroyed a mixed use building that had fun and unique local retailers in it, and replaced it with a boring box. They replaced.. well a shitty, underutilized block with a boring box. I will say I think they screwed up majorly on the Broadway retail design. They used brick (and eco friendly brick red panels) on floors 2-6 on the broadway side but painted the concrete at ground level.. a slightly darker shade of grey than it would have been naturally. Meanwhile, on the Harvard side of the building, they used beautiful brick on the first two floors and misc colors of paneling above that. It looks so much higher quality from that side.

  21. One problem i have is the ungodly amount of parking spaces they put under that thing. Importing drivers into Capitol Hill means these people leave to shop in South Center and Northgate, not here. I really don’t think Olive and Deny were designed to handle that traffic either. I have no idea what these people think they are doing to the neighborhood by adding so many new drivers to the hood.

    Oh, right, they don’t care. They’re just happy to collect the 2700/mo and live somewhere else. Not my neighborhood so who cares!

  22. Yes, sandwich shop (Not Subway), bakery, electronics (Not Radio Shack), etc. So many damn Sushi and Thai places. Enough already.

  23. EXACTLY. I met a friend there for dinner one evening last summer and and soon as we sat down we felt how awkward their seating arrangement was. The area we were led to featured little square ottomans as seating rather than chairs.

    I’d like to offer my thoughts on Saizen’s 2nd sin: their harsh, cold lighting which had the same effect as fluorescent garage lighting – makes one look like The Undead. The contrast between the beautiful summer evening light just outside the windows and the undead lighting + not being able to lean back in a chair to relax proved to be too much for my friend and I. After exactly 2 minutes of being there we decided to leave.

  24. “Are you assuming it’s vacant because there’s a sign in the window saying it’s available, or have you seen inside the unit? It wouldn’t totally shock me if it was vacant, as the floorplan sitting on that corner starts at $2700 a month…Joule is so full that it’s a race to prelease units, they rarely go vacant for more time than is needed for the crews to come in and clean and paint.”

    How many contradictions can you put in a few sentences? Is it vacant? Is it full?

  25. traj, do you actually know how many parking spaces are there? I don’t…what is the ratio of apartments to spaces? In my opinion, something like 1:1 is about right for an area like this….that keeps residents from having more than one vehicle, but at the same time prevents additional parking problems in an area where on-street parking is very tight. To not provide any parking in such a development is an rude and an afront to the surrounding neighborhood.

  26. What they need in that area is a good japanese shabu shabu or high-end Asian cafe bakery (like a Tea Station or 626 bakery in SoCal) establishment. It will mix up the restaurant portfolio on Cap Hill beyond the usual asian eateries/joints in town.

  27. I’m sorry, but friends of mine and I ate there very early on and it was in the evening; all of the food (including the sushi) was room temperature. Plus, I felt like an extra in the Walking Dead in the lighting. I used to live in London and there were some conveyer places there that were GREAT, like Itsu, but they didn’t make it feel like you were getting sushi served impersonally in an IKEA setting with bad lighting.

    Over time, since I live in this area, I just felt like I saw the same sushi going round and round for hours in an empty place. It did NOT make me want to go in there.

    Also, this is going against a trend — fewer people eat sushi now due to sustainabililty issues. A high end sustainable sushi place would do gangbusters in this neighborhood.

    I feel bad for the owners, though. Tough one for them. I bet they were paying $32 or $34 sq foot rent.

  28. I know there were plans in place for an Ace Hardware on the hill (during the worst of the recession times when everything was vacant) but the former Jade Pagoda owners decided they didn’t want to put in a loading dock and the Joule people decided at the last minute that they wanted more money. So instead we ended up with a $35 a session pilates place and this defunct sushi spot.

    As someone once said at a planning meeting, Broadways needs a “mall manager,” someone who would keep us from another Thai or Asian place, and instead figure out what the neighborhood actually needs and wants. Such a thing would have saved this business which frankly as a longtime resident, I knew was doomed from the day it opened. (Ditto with the Mod Pizza place — across from Pagliacci.)

    Here’s what we need: a hardware store, a real plant/garden place, a bakery, a really good sandwich/deli spot (not that B.S. stuff sold at QFC), a nice not to expensive but seasonally focused diner without worker attitude. (See: Deluxe Bar & Grill.) Frankly, I’d be up for a good hot dog post. I’d probably cry if good fried chicken opened up on broadway; we were driving down to West Seattle.

  29. City Peoples is not exactly on Capitol Hill, but it’s very nearby, and it’s a really great small nursery and garden store, with very knowledgeable staff. I doubt if our neighborhood could support another such store even if it were economically possible to put one on or near Broadway.

  30. It was a terrible idea for that location. Especially with a much beloved and excellent Sushi place – Aoki – half a block away. Very few people in our neighborhood want fast-food Sushi. And nobody is going to drive up to Capitol Hill for fast-food sushi. The place up near SCCC is much better situated since students are more likely to go for that sort of thing.

    And now a another chain yogurt place and yet another Yoga studio? Had we not already reached Peak Yoga and Peak Yogurt in 2002? I guarantee you both those places will be gone with-in three years. Please. Don’t do this Joule. It will be a disaster.


    Or a nice quite lounge type bar?