Sushi chef Shiro Kashiba prepares some squid for a guest. Photo by Ronald Holden
Sushi chef Shiro Kashiba prepares some squid for a guest. Photo by Ronald Holden
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In the heart of Ballard is a new sandwich shop called Porkchop & Co. (5451 Leary Way N.W.). The owner is Paul Osher, whose specialty is, literally, a porkchop sandwich.

Osher comes from a line of Kosher rabbis. He was studying for a doctorate degree in philosophy in Los Angeles and cooking in restaurants on the side. We know how the story turned out, don’t we?

Dot’s, the charming deli at 4262 Fremont Ave. N., is now closed.

Not far away, at 425 N.W. Market St., a new occupant at the former Le Gourmand: a tavern called Brimmer & Heeltap.

Coming before year’s end to Ballard: an outpost of the Patxi’s pizza chain.

In lower Queen Anne is a new Mexican spot, Agave, in the Expo Apartments (118 Republican St.). “Not your typical Mexican restaurant,” says one of the owners, Federico Ramos. “Better quality ingredients, healthier, no lard, smaller portions.” (His family also runs an Agave unit in Issaquah Highlands.)

Ramos designed most of the fixtures and furnishings himself and had them fabricated near his hometown of Guadalajara. Happy hour features, not surprisingly, tequila drinks; the selection of sipping tequilas is impressive, and Agave offers more than a dozen tasting flights.

The Expo building stands on the site of a former QFC supermarket. The Burkheimer family, which owned the property, made a concerted effort to woo an eclectic mix of restaurants as tenants. (I wrote about Triumph Wine Bar and Roaring Bowl earlier.) In addition to Agave, there’s also a full-service Taylor Shellfish oyster bar to complement the retail outlet in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill (and another restaurant coming to Pioneer Square later this year).

Jason Wilson has tweaked the menu at Crush (2319 E. Madison St.). No longer is it organized according to the traditional appetizer-entrée-dessert, but by the dish’s dominant “flavor.”

Downtown, there’s a new bar overlooking the lobby of the Andrea Hotel (2000 Fourth Ave.). It’s part of the latest Tom Douglas venture, a cooking school called the Hot Stove Society. 

Rumors abound

Keep your nose in the air, food fans. There are two rumors making the rounds.

First, and more concrete, stories of an upcoming steak house from Eric Banh of Monsoon and Monsoon East. The location for this one is supposed to be 1305 E. Jefferson St., currently an anonymous office building on Capitol Hill, but just around the corner from Ba Bar.

There’s no name for the restaurant, but beef is highly regarded in Vietnam (as it is in Vietnam’s former colonial patron, France, where côte de boeuf — bone-in rib-eye — is regarded as a decadent luxury). There is, however, a name associated with the venture: Scott Emerick, the original chef at Veil in Queen Anne, later at Crémant in Madrona.

Second rumor — It’s a lament we hear from time to time about Eataly in New York: When are we going to get one of those mega food-malls in Seattle? Leaving aside that we already have the Pike Place Market, plenty mega for most people, the question is whether there’s enough demand in Seattle for an upscale market of that scale. And the answer might be, “Let’s try it!”

So, without any word on where or when (Labor Day is the best guess), there’s a team of developers working on a space in San Francisco, with plans to expand to Seattle, San Diego and Dallas, once they get the kinks worked out. The Market Hall is the tentative name.

Wait, a third rumor: You’ll recall that John Sundstrom is moving his beloved Lark into a new space in the Central Agency Building (952 Seneca St.) on Capitol Hill, along with another spot, to be called Bitter/Raw? With an adjacent lunch spot called Slab Sandwich & Pie? Well, the rumor mill has a Canadian sandwich spot called Meat & Bread moving in, as well. Don’t look for anything to open before fall, though.

And something called Black Mountain is in the works in Belltown, combining cocktails, coffee and pizza. Behind it all is Mike McConnell of Via Tribunali and Caffè Vita. 

Shiro’s sushi story

Long past the age when chefs retire, Shiro Kashiba continued to report for work, taking after his Tokyo-based mentor, Jiro Ono (the 80-year-old star of the film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”). Mind you, Kashiba had actually sold most of his interest in the Shiro’s (2401 Second Ave.) a couple of years ago to his golfing buddy, Yoshi Yokoyama, founder of the I Love Sushi chain. Until now, though, he kept a small sliver for himself.

When Kashiba first arrived in Seattle, sushi was almost unknown outside the Japanese community. He would hike the Puget Sound beaches and dig his own geoduck; he would take unwanted octopus and salmon roe from fishermen along the Seattle waterfront. Eventually, geoduck would start selling for 89 cents a pound in local markets; now, 30 years later (with increased demand and the rise of a sushi-mad Chinese middle-class), geoduck is $20 a pound.

By training and temperament, Kashiba is a traditionalist, and his Belltown restaurant is the archetype of a traditional sushi parlor. Guests who expect (and demand!) unusual preparations like “fusion rolls” are politely shown the door with the suggestion that Wasatch Bistro, a block south, might be more accommodating.

I remember telling Kashiba, after a half-dozen visits, that I was ready for something “more adventurous.” At any rate, he set me straight: The adventure is created within a formal framework, in the pleasure of each piece of fish, in the satisfaction of the experience.

His memoir, “Shiro,” published in 2011, recounts his journey from Kyoto to Seattle, passing via years of slog in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Ambitious, he persuaded Seattle restaurateur Ted Tanaka to hire him, and in 1966, he arrived in Seattle.

Within four years, he had opened the city’s first full-service sushi bar, The Maneki. Four years later, he married Ritsuko, a fellow foreign student at Seattle Central Community College.

In 1972, he opened Nikko (which he would sell to Westin Hotels); in 1986, Hana; and, in 1994, Shiro’s.

Kashiba intends to open another spot, “a traditional sushi parlor,” as soon as he finds the right location.

RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.