There ought to be a word for sushi that has little to do with Japanese food (maybe newshi?). That way, sushi snobs like me—who care about properly cooked and seasoned rice, impeccably fresh fish cut perfectly—could differentiate between the few places that serve sushi and the growing number of places that specialize in newshi, where fist-size rolls packed to bursting with fake crab (pollock), cream cheese and flavored mayo rule.
Momiji, with its glowing, gorgeously wrought interiors and shiny singles scene, celebrates all things newshi. Snakes of rainbow-colored combo rolls stretching 2 feet long are the norm; there are 40 such “specialty rolls” ($9–$20), perhaps the most bombastic of which is the Tina Caliente roll ($14), which packs together mango, chipotle mayo, cilantro and about five varieties of seafood. The seafood (much of which stars on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Do Not Eat” list) doesn’t stand a chance against all the sweet-hot-smoky noise. Careful diners will find a few bright spots on the menu: wild salmon collar (a bargain at $12), two lush, fatty slices of fish so delicious that they taste of, well, fresh wild salmon; sautéed squid with ginger ($8); king crab with ponzu sauce ($14)—all of which is better than the truly mediocre, not inexpensive sushi here.
And beware: The restaurant’s standard salmon is farmed Atlantic, so specify wild when ordering. I could go on and on about sustainably harvested fish, but why bother? Diners who care about such concerns have no business at Momiji. As the oceans strain against overharvesting and unsustainable fishing practices, no fish should have to die to become part of a Hot Tina roll, let alone five.
Dinner daily. Capitol Hill, 1522 12th Ave.; 206.457.4068; momijiseattle.com. $$