Live/Work Space

Loft-dwelling cooks, Amazonian ambitions

Chiso There's Old Fremont and there's Fremont Version 2.0, and Chiso, no matter how good the food, is stuck in the latter. Stuffed beneath an ugly new mixed-use building and squished next to a UPS store, the 6-year-old Japanese eatery offers incongruous photos of Teton scenes in the foyer—because when you think of fresh sushi, you think of the mountains? Fortunately, the menu quickly brings us back down to sea level: a sushi combo starter is fresh-cut and arrayed to Tokyo standards; the miso soup doesn't sucker punch you with spiciness for its own sake; and the agedashi tofu falls away tenderly to the touch, soupy yet sculptural. Among the ippin (small-dish entrées), the delicious Alaskan black cod kasuzuke elevates that humble fish in a bath of sake curd and saikyo miso. If the spider roll presents in an overly fussy manner, the crab, cucumber, avocado, and tobiko would taste as delicately fused if you ate it blindfolded. Relaxed service allows you to keep dipping into the menu for just one more thing. If there's no coffee—sorry, tea only—to go with a flavorful flan dessert, there's always Starbucks down the street. Perhaps the solution here is to split the loud, concrete-floored space into Chiso-to-Go, and find a second location for more intimate dining. It would surely fill up just as fast. BRIAN MILLERServes: lunch, dinner. 3520 Fremont Ave. N., 632-3 0. FREMONT $$ Crave Crave combines Pike-Pine's past, present, and future as warehouse district, hipster playground, and condo hotbed, respectively. In a light-filled corner of the Capitol Hill Arts Center—a building originally intended as a car showroom—it serves high-grade comfort food while serenading diners with a pink iPod's worth of Magnetic Fields and Belle and Sebastian. Weekend brunches earn their long lines: The biscuits and gravy are the finest around, and the omelets are prepared with more creativity and finesse than you'd expect for single-digit prices. Those looking for a work-week indulgence should consider a slightly streamlined weekday breakfast—as tasty as brunch and without the table-wait it warrants. DAMON AGNOSServes: breakfast, lunch, dinner. 1621 12th Ave., 388-0526. CAPITOL HILL $-$$ Kisaku Just as the past few years have have seen the word "townhome" forever tainted in Seattle, there's little romance left to the mixed-use complex. In these now-ubiquitous buildings, form doesn't merely follow function, it lags far behind, wheezing and stinking with defeat. But just as some of the best Indian food in the Puget Sound area can be found in strip malls, beautiful things are happening on the ground floors of mixed-use complexes. Take Tangletown's Kisaku, which has the requisite exposed ductwork, wide-open plan (warmed up with pumpkin walls), and halogen lights of the live-work-loft era, but its sushi, sashimi, and hot fare are prepared with much more care than the architects spent on their plans. Owner–sushi chef Ryuichi Nakano has fans so passionate about the variety and careful selection of his fish, the precision of his rolls, and his way with customers that they become a little scary when, let's say, a friend of mine casually praises a competitor like Chiso or Shiro's. Omakase! OK, I'll agree: Kisaku is great. Don't get a mixed-use complex about it or anything. JONATHAN KAUFFMANServes: lunch, dinner. 2101 N. 55th St., 545-9050. GREEN LAKE $$ Ten Mercer Tall loft windows. Unfinished, barnlike ceiling. Exposed brick. Exposed girders. Exposed ducts. It's all so very dot-com, so revitalized-urban-core, you half expect to see everyone sitting on those big bouncy exercise balls instead of chairs. But Ten Mercer wears its industrial chic as a discreet background (well, as discreet as a girder can be, anyway, there above the bar): You're more likely to notice the warm orange walls, the snaky, whimsical sculptural light fixtures, or the two-story wine storage tower behind the bar, complete with library ladder. In interesting contrast to all this are the old-school, almost old-world desserts: a classic vanilla custard and especially a pillowy, frivolous confection of layered cream, raspberries, and phyllo dough that the emperor Franz Josef himself would have found delectable. GAVIN BORCHERTServes: dinner, late night. 10 Mercer St., 691-4723. LOWER QUEEN ANNE $$

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