There is a different definition for everyone when it comes to comfort food. For some, it may be mom's mac n' cheese or a hot bowl of chowder. For Chef Shota Nakajima, comfort food packs a meaning that goes beyond words. He recreates childhood flavours using fine ingredients combined with polished culinary training for his newly renovated Seattle restaurant Adana, located in the Capitol Hill district.
Restaurant owner and Executive Chef Shota Nakajima opened the doors to his newly renovated Japanese kaiseki restaurant Adana to the public earlier this year, where he combined his professional culinary training with his Japanese heritage to create nostalgic flavours with a fine-dining twist. After hearing about the hype, we decided to pay a visit on an impromptu trip to Seattle over the weekend. Contemporary interior design coupled with a large, airy space and plenty of seating creates a welcoming first impression. The interior is segmented into different sections, including a dimmer area for guests to lounge around the oversized cocktail bar. Muted colours, reclaimed wood and Japanese-style paper lamps come together to achieve a minimalistic elegance often seen in Japanese-style interior design. A beautiful place to immerse yourself in fine food and beverage offering a reasonably priced 3-course menu (that varies monthly), or a casual and affordable à la carte menu with plenty of Japanese classics to choose from.
We were recommended to try the "Toki-mon" cocktail - a signature cocktail said to draw repeat customers. The cocktail is made with a concoction of Suntory Toki Whisky, lemon, ginger and clove syrup, finished off with a Pokeball design on top using edible food colouring and a stencil. A slightly sweet, refreshing drink with harmonious warm spices that compliment the Suntory Toki Whiskey.
An impressive list of Japanese whiskey, sake and fine liquor line the shelves of the cocktail bar. Alex brought over two of the restaurant's most prized collectible Japanese whiskey, including a Hibiki 30 Suntory whiskey and a limited edition Yamazaki 18 year Mizunara whiskey aged in Japanese oak cask. "There isn't much of the Hibiki 30 left in the world. We are lucky to still have half a bottle left", says Alex about the limited edition Suntory Whiskey. For the hardcore whiskey enthusiast, Adana is currently offering customers a taste of this rare and celebrated whiskey at $500 a glass. Not to worry, their large collection also offers other robust whiskeys that won't break the bank.
When our first dish came up, restaurant manager Alex explained that although the dish is a simple Japanese devilled egg, the flavours are inspired by the Japanese-style macaroni salad that Nakajima's mom used to make for him when he was growing up. A perfect and light starter, the devilled egg was packed full of texture in a satisfying bite.
Our first main course was a miso cured salmon with yuzukosho, peas, pine nuts and pickles. As beautiful as the plating was, the highlight for us was definitely the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the cured salmon. Subtle, complementary flavours on the plate let the salmon shine through, while sour pickles added a touch of freshness to the dish.
Next up, we were served a beautiful, steaming plate of milk braised pork shoulder with mushrooms, carrots and peas. Familiar flavours unite to create this savoury dish that will warm your belly on a cold day. Comfort food at it's best, this saucy stew hit all the right notes with the slow-braised tenderness of the pork shoulder and just the right amount of sauce to accompany every bite.
Our favourite dish of the meal was definitely the grilled octopus. The charred tentacles were soft and tender, as opposed to the all too common chewy texture I often find in restaurants. When asked what the secret is to making octopus like this, Alex explained that the chefs softens the meat by taking the time to profusely "beat" it, in an effort to break the fibers that are responsible for making the octopus chewy. Accompanied with leeks, soybean, kombu, konyaku and shiitake, the Japanese flavours blend well with the smokiness of the charred tentacles and the assortment of textures make it an interesting and enjoyable dish.
Katsu Sando is a staple on the a la carte lounge menu, which offers a variety of Japanese classics including yakisoba and fresh, seasonal oysters. We were excited to try Adana's variation of the Pork Katsu sandwich, a casual Japanese-style sandwich with deep-fried pork cutlet in between white sandwich bread and refreshing coleslaw. While we feel the pork katsu could have been more tender, overall the sandwich was tasty and definitely filled us up.
Whether you are into fine whiskey, innovative cocktails, fine kaiseki dining or just simple, delicious Japanese comfort food, drop by Adana the next time you happen to be in Seattle for a dining experience complete with friendly service and an elegant setting.
Photography by Sam Lin
1449 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122, USA