After 25 years serving satisfied diners in West Seattle, one sushi master is moving on soon. Chef Hajime Sato — whose restaurant Mashiko defined the sustainable sushi movement in the city — will hang up his knives in August to focus on his wife’s health in her home state of Michigan. In his place, three longtime Mashiko employees will be taking over the business. Sushi chefs Brandon Wicks and Mariah Kmitta, along with server Allison Hill, officially purchased Mashiko on Tuesday, months after a sale to an outside buyer fell through. All three have decades of restaurant experience combined.
Even after Sato leaves, the restaurant will maintain the chef’s commitment to sustainability, which means sourcing ingredients carefully from suppliers that use ethical farming practices, avoiding menu items that are overly fished (such as bluefin tuna), and helping to reduce waste. “We plan to branch into trying to use more local produce and develop relationships with farmers,” says Wicks, who will take over the kitchen with Kmitta. Mashiko — which opened in 1994 and has appeared on Eater Seattle’s list of 38 essential restaurants — is one of the premier destinations in the city for sushi, serving up clams in buttery miso, sea snail, and rainbow trout sashimi. In 2009, the restaurant fully embraced sustainable practices and hasn’t looked back since.
Even though Sato once said he lost 20 percent of his business from going green, things picked up once the word of his sustainability ethos got out. It’s unfortunate the chef must leave the place he clearly loves, but now Mashiko is ready for a new era. And, with a few weeks before Sato leaves for Michigan, there’s still time for fans to say goodbye.