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A Star Apprentice of Seattle Sushi Godfather Shiro Kashiba is Opening a Bellevue Restaurant

Jun Takai’s first restaurant will focus on the Edomae-style sushi his mentor brought to Seattle over 50 years ago

A Japanese man with short cropped hair and a short salt and pepper beard looks at the camera.
Chef Jun Takai, one of Shiro Kashiba’s star apprentices, will lead a new restaurant in Bellevue.
Ed Kashiba

Shiro Kashiba, the man credited with bringing Edomae-style sushi to Seattle over 50 years ago, is helping a star apprentice, Jun Takai, open a new restaurant in downtown Bellevue. Takai, who moved to Seattle from Tokyo to work for Kashiba more than 10 years ago, was previously the chef at Shiro’s in Belltown and more recently led the Bellevue location of I Love Sushi.

Kashiba’s son, Ed Kashiba, who will be running operations at the yet-to-be-named restaurant, says his father is focusing on how he can help the next generation of Seattle sushi chefs continue the tradition of Edomae-style sushi, a minimalist practice of combining cured or flavored fish with rice and nori that stands in sharp contrast to the spicy, saucy rolls served at most American sushi restaurants. The chef was given an award this year from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for promoting and educating diners about Japanese cuisine overseas.

“My dad turned 80 this year,” Ed says. “When you get older, you start to think of legacy and what you’re leaving behind.”

A man wearing a straw fedora holds an entire salmon at a fish market while smiling.
Shiro Kashiba, pictured shopping at Pike Place Market, is credited with bringing Edomae-style sushi to Seattle.
Ed Kashiba

The restaurant is planned to open in June or July on the ground floor of One88 condo building on Bellevue Way. Ed says the menu will focus on Edomae-style sushi, omakase, and small plates using seasonal ingredients, similar to what Shiro serves his Pike Place restaurant, Sushi Kashiba. There will be around 40 seats in the restaurant, with a 10-seat omakase counter and a six-seat bar where diners can sample high-end Japanese whiskey.

Shiro recruited Takai to be his apprentice on the same trip he recruited Daisuke Nakazawa, a chef who went on to open the wildly famous Sushi Nakazawa restaurants in New York and Washington D.C. Ed describes Takai as an extremely dedicated apprentice: Every New Year’s Day, Takai delivers a gift to his father’s house as a sign of respect. He maintains that Takai’s sushi is closer in style to his father’s than that of any other apprentice. “I wouldn’t be able to differentiate if there was a blind taste test,” Ed says.

Takai and the elder Kashiba will be business partners on the restaurant; Ed describes the relationship as his father sponsoring Takai to help him flourish.

As more of Shiro’s apprentices gain the skills required to lead restaurants, Kashiba says he and his father plan to continue to help them open their own restaurants in the future, too.