- Kelly O
- WITH A SPOT PRAWN Shiro Kashiba and Daisuke Nakazawa behind the sushi bar at Shiro’s in the good old days.
Shiro Kashiba is a local sushi hero. At Shiro's—his Belltown place, open since 1994—fans would wait to worship the master at his sushi bar. He'd tell you how much soy sauce to apply to individual pieces of fish, and, in some cases, how long to chew them. He'd laugh gleefully as you ate your uni, chortling, "Chocolate from the sea!" Shiro was doing local/organic/seasonal before many chefs today were born, both out of ideology and out of necessity. Upon coming to Seattle in 1966, he realized that serving all the Japanese sushi favorites—fish native to those waters—was not only going to be expensive, it would be just stupid. He walked the piers and saw fishermen throwing away salmon roe, so he asked them for it. Later, he did the same thing with his fish suppliers and salmon skin. He pioneered geoduck sushi, digging them himself when they were everywhere in the sand of Puget Sound, which was teeming with fish. (If you want more of his wit and wisdom [plus recipes!]—and you do—check out his memoir Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer. The photos alone—from seemingly every step of his life in Japan and then Seattle—are amazing.)
But in the last few years, Shiro wasn't at Shiro's as much anymore, after he sold all but a minority interest to partners, including one from the less-than-amazing local I Love Sushi chain.
Now, after 20 years, Shiro isn't at Shiro's at all. He confirms by phone that he sold his last part of the business and has been gone since April. "I miss that place," he says.
Word on the street is that Shiro's, unsurprisingly, already isn't as good anymore, but there's hope for fans: Shiro is looking for a space to open a new place, along with another Shiro's chef, Yasutaka Suzuki. He doesn't know where or when yet, but he has a plan to open "a real, real nice, traditional Japanese sushi restaurant," he says. "We need one more good one." TRUTH.
As for the incredible success of his protégé Daisuke Nakazawa in New York—they both, years apart, trained with the now-world-famous Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi—Shiro says, "It's great, it's real nice. I'm so happy!" He hasn't been to Sushi Nakazawa yet, but he's going "very soon."
Shiro has promised to let us know how the search for a new space progresses. Godspeed, Shiro, and please make it very close to my house.