Japanese comfort food that will warm you all the way through.

 

There aren’t a lot of things I miss about living in Seattle but inexpensive yet amazing Asian food is one of them. There really is nothing like a steaming vat of pho and a pile of fresh rolls, simple and fresh teriyaki chicken, or a sushi and sake happy hour at an unassuming hole-in-the-wall to generally improve my outlook on

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The cucumber roll that my (insufferably picky about sushi) son devoured and katsu don. My pictures are always terrible because I really dislike taking photos of food in restaurants so I do it as fast as I can. 

 

the world. If you have found these things in Ellensburg, please share with the class. While it’s not really the same, there’s a place here that might be even better. So as to not bury the lede, I’ll just say that it’s Kiku-Chan. 

As you may remember, dear readers, I really love Oyama Japanese Steakhouse for fancy sushi, but there’s another category of Japanese food that is probably less familiar to many but equally important in my cuisine hierarchy. Kiku-Chan offers simple, authentic, Japanese comfort food, in a small casual restaurant. I will disclose that my husband is of Japanese-American descent so many dishes served at Kiku-Chan are his childhood favorites that have since become dear to my own heart and stomach.  Enough ado, let’s talk food.

My aforementioned husband eats lunch at Kiku-Chan about once-a-week and almost always orders the Katsu Don. It’s a fried pork cutlet (tonkatsu) chopped up and mixed with onions and egg, served over rice. That’s the simple description but the dish, when done properly, is more than the sum of its parts and Kiku-Chan totally nails it. The same can be said for their miso soup.

I haven’t had a ton of sushi at Kiku-Chan but what I have tried has been really good. You are not going to find a lot of tempura-crab-inside-out-upside-down-spider-rainbow-roll or whatever there but sushi rolls need not be complicated and are often better for their simplicity. If the rice is cooked and seasoned well, the nori is fresh, the fish and vegetables are impeccable, and if they are rolled not-too-tight but not-too-loose, then you don’t need gimmicks or drizzled sauces and the like. Now that I write all of that out it sounds just as difficult as it is. I’m rambling, but this is all to day that Kiku-Chan makes really lovely rolls.

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Again, bad picture of good food. Clockwise from top: shrimp and vegetable tempura, ahi sashimi, spring rolls, steamed rice. 

In my experience, you can’t go wrong at Kiku-Chan. The super-nice people who work there are genuinely committed to the integrity of the food and it shows in every dish. I won’t bore you with an essay on each meal I’ve eaten there, but I’ll say that I have always enjoyed it. My last meal was an ahi tuna sashimi bento special. It says a lot about my faith in a restaurant if I order straight-up raw fish for lunch. For the record, it was great.

Man, I’m really hungry now. I’ll leave it there and just say Kiku-Chan is one of my favorite places in town. With lunches around $10, it’s a nice spot if you’re looking for something a little different for a midday meal, and the cozy dining room would lend itself well to a relatively inexpensive but totally impressive date. I will use my two years of high school Japanese for the first and probably last time and say Kiku-Chan wa oishii desu ne! That’s supposed to say “Kiku-Chan is delicious!” but feel free to tell me how wrong I am.