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Making Sushi and Sukiyaki at Seattle’s Oldest Sushi Restaurant — Cooking in America

– So we’re going to
Maneki which is the oldest Japanese restaurant here in Seattle, and we’ll be talking to Jean Nakayama. She’s been coming here
since she was a little kid and now is running this place continuing the legacy of this
100-year-old restaurant and serving the Japanese community. – [Jean] Welcome, Sheldon. – Thank you for having me. – Oh, you have a reservation here? – No reservation, but I can scrub dishes if I score one. We’re right in the
middle of the sushi bar. – The very first sushi bar in Seattle. – Maki, Maki Lesson 101. – Oh gosh. – Yeah, where’d you learn to roll sushi? – Here. It happens when somebody
doesn’t show up for work. (Sheldon laughing) So we’re going to make spicy tuna roll. Tuna ahi. We try to make it very fierce, and then you got to roll. And it’s done. – It’s like the sushi machines that they have at the
conveyor belt places. Alright. – I can see you. We use real crab mixed with mayonnaise. Back in the 70s, there’s no such thing as mayonnaise, rice, and crab. That combination did not stick. We had this one fellow from Hawai’i, and he said, “I want a crab roll.” My husband made it. “Oh, this is quite good.” And so you add the avocado, the cucumber, and then you have the crab. – There you go. Moment of truth. – [Jean] Same technique. Okay, you do it that way. – What’s going on? – No, that’s good too.
(laughing) Wonderful! – I need to go spend some time in Japan. Look at that. – Just make a hundred of them in an hour and you’ll get it then. – I promise next time I come back. The restaurant is 100 years old though. – 113. – 113, but this is not
the original location. – The original location is
half a block up the hill. – This is the Nihonmachi.
– Nihonmachi area. – Or Japan Town.
– Japan Town we had. – But this was the place
where everyone spoke Japanese. – [Jean] Everyone spoke Japanese. – You said there were tea houses here. – We had a theater, pastry shops. The original location, it was
there until the World War II. Pearl Harbor came and
everybody had Japanese ancestry had to go to camp cause they
put out that order. You had three days to pack up. It brought a big shock to the community. And so Maneki was used as
storage for all their things. But it was very hard
to deal for everybody. The original Maneki was heavily damaged, and so then this space was available. Mr. Sato decided to
just stay in this spot. We are going to do a sukiyaki. So sukiyaki is basically a
very family orientated dish. Kinda influenced from after the war because of the meat, and the
tofu, and the vegetables. – Pretty much what was available. – What was available, yeah. Tofu, napa cabbage, sliced onions. Udon noodles is pretty much something that Osaka area would use, but
we have these clear noodles and these are potato starch noodles. – [Sheldon] I love the
contrast between that. – And then add some sauce. Soy sauce, sake, sugar, dashi. The beef needs to be sliced really thin. Then it goes on top of the sukiyaki. (old timey music) So the next one we’re gonna do, we’re gonna do the sakana dinner. The sakana dinner is like a fish dinner. And in Japan they have like these dinners where you have soup,
rice, a protein, pickles, and then maybe another side dish. And we’ve had this on the
menu since post-war. It’s still one of the favorites. This is a half of saba. Make some little slits here
cause when you broil it it goes poof. – [Sheldon] Alright. – [Jean] Wiggle the salt. – Yes. (piano music) – Itadakimasu. Itadakimasu in Japanese is
like “what a wonderful spread, let’s dig in.” – May I? – No, you first. For trying to respect the
elders, I’m not that old. I’m only 95, I’m not don’t worry. (Sheldon laughing) – I was like you do look good for 95. Show me the way. We started off with the sukiyaki. Oh I love these one pot dishes. Umami from the mushrooms. The heartiness from the
takinoko and the bamboo shoots. The contrast of the two noodles. Hearty feel and then the crunchiness to it. Then we have the grilled saba. – Japanese diet in the old
days was rice, miso soup, something fried, something
that’s grilled that’s a protein, and then this was a
little bit of a delicacy. So the saba. – The skin, crispy on the top. – It needs to be crispy too. – Yeah, here we go. I love fatty oily – – Fish. – Pickle cucumber with some shrimp in it. That’s what so amazing
about Japanese food. It has a balance on everything. There’s always something that’s contrasting against the other. – Yes it is. – You’re here every night still. – I am, and very honored because we’ve had so many regular customers. You know, they come here
for their birthdays, or for first date. The after dinner wedding thing, and sometimes we have like
four generations at the table. There’s a lot of people that
think that Maneki’s more, you know, their own home. So many stories. – Yeah, if these walls could talk. (laughing) – We did have a dishwasher
his name was Takeo Miki. While he was going to university
he did wash dishes here and then he went back to
Japan, became prime minister. – That’s amazing. Maybe I can start washing dishes tomorrow? – And become prime minister of Hawai’i? (laughing) One of the other stories
we have about Maneki, Bill Gates came and Mom,
we’d call her Mom because you know we need something then go to her. She actually carded him. Cause he looked so young. Everybody was like “do you
know who you’re carding?” She’s “I don’t care he looks too young to be ordering a drink.” Mom’s 87 this year and she’s
been with Maneki ever since back in the 60’s or so. She still tends bar twice a week and she basically knows everybody
in the Japanese community. – How is the Japanese community
in Seattle nowadays? – It’s spread out. There’s no restrictions
on where you can live. In the old days we had
the Japan town here. You weren’t allowed to live
in certain neighborhoods. When we had the remodel
of the whole building we had new landlords. And my husband wanted to continue Maneki because he thought it was
very important to keep Maneki as an identity for the
Nihonmachi, the Japan town. And everybody just had
dinner here in the past. – To move on from tha dark period too. – Yes. The food brings back
memories and we try to prepare the food from our heart
to relay to our customers. – So a spot like this becomes home again.

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