By Megan Hill
Though he honed his skills at highly respected Seattle sushi restaurants Shiro’s and Sushi Kappo Tamura, chef-owner Hiro Tawara’s new Belltown restaurant, Wa’z (411 Cedar St.), will not focus on his native Japan’s raw-fish-and-rice dishes. Instead, Tawara will serve the country’s elegant, seasonally shifting prix fixe meals known as kaiseki, a style on which Tawara built his career and has shared via Pike Place Market pop-ups since 2015. Wa’z is set to open in March.
Tawara started his career at Kyoto kaiseki restaurant Kyo-Yamato and worked at other kaiseki spots as well, so this opening marks a return to his roots after spending time in Seattle focused on sushi. Wa’z’s intimate framework couldn’t be more different than the Taco del Mar it replaces. The multi-course, artfully plated meals will be served in two formats: a “Premium Kaiseki” at the 16-seat chef’s counter only, featuring 8 to 10 courses priced at $100 to $110 with an option to add a sake pairing, and a scaled-down “Gozen” with three menu options priced at $50 each, served in the 16-seat dining room.
Tawara said that while his food will reflect his Kyoto training, he’ll adapt his cooking to work with local ingredients. Each dish will be punctuated with modern touches, as well as influences picked up from dining around Seattle — but it won’t be fusion.
“I can’t get the exact same ingredients here,” Tawara told Eater. “So I have to think about how to incorporate Northwest ingredients into my food, and still being traditional, not a fusion. I look to other styles of cuisine, such as European and other Asian cooking, to get inspiration on how to use ingredients in my food.”
Savvy Seattle diners, of course, may recall the elegance of high-end kaiseki from the city’s only other purveyor, now-defunct Naka, which chef-owner Shota Nakajima converted to more-casual Adana last year — to instant accolades, considering that the young chef is a semifinalist for this 2018’s James Beard Award for Rising Chef of the Year. Though he had to pivot for financial success, Nakajima hasn’t abandoned kaiseki, and currently runs quarterly dinners focused on the style for his devout followers.
When it opens, Wa’z will operate Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m.