We’re going to have to wait a few more weeks for the new Ba Bar at University Village, but here’s a thought in the meantime: why not hit up Ballard’s de facto Thai enclave? Sen Noodles, for example, at 2307 NW Market St., offers a number of different choices of sen, the Thai name for noodles. On my most recent visit I enjoyed the Guay Jub, a soup with rolled rice noodles, pork spare ribs, tofu, boiled egg, bean sprouts, onion, and cilantro in a five-spice broth. It’s a sister restaurant to Pestle Rock, a more traditional Isan-style Thai restaurant located just next door.

Back to U-Village, where Williams Sonoma, the venerable cookware chain, has expanded in two related directions. First, by going whole-heartedly into home furnishings. No surprise, perhaps, since W-S happens to own Pottery Barn. Ashley Home Furnishings is the 500-lb. Gorilla of the category, with Ikea in strong pursuit, but Williams Sonoma has 600 stores, revenues of $4.5 billion, and some 30,000 employees. Restoration Hardware does a good job of promoting itself to high-end customers, but it’s only one tenth the size of Williams Sonoma. 

To pull ahead of the pack, though, W-S is turning itself into a hybrid cookware + furnishings store. At the grand opening of the U-Village store last month, a couple of hostesses decked out in oyster-shucking gear welcomed guests, while inside Renee Erickson, no less, presided over the cooking island. And a few steps further back, Anu Elford dispensed cocktails.

Wataru, the sushi parlor in Ravenna at 2400 NE 65th St., is hitting on all cylinders these days. It’s run by Kotao Kumita, a disciple of the dean of Seattle sushi (we bow our heads in reverence), Shiro Kashiba, who in turn learned his trade at the elbow of Japan’s legendary Jiro (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) Ono, now 91 and still at work in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Kumita ended up in Laurelhurst and a space vacated by a Garlic Jim’s pizza parlor. Spare and elegant, most of it handcrafted by Kumita himself, it seats two dozen diners at tables and exactly six lucky people at the right-angled sushi bar. The name, Wataru, means “from elsewhere.” 

An omikase (“chef’s choice”) dinner at Wataru is not inexpensive. In theory, you can quit whenever you want, but there’s a pace to the meal, one piece of sushi at a time, that’s almost symphonic in its progression. Kumita spares his guests the indignity (in my view) of separating the diner from the chef; there’s no glass window, no “cold case” holding pieces of fish on ice. Instead, the day’s raw materials are kept in a couple of elegant wooden boxes from which Kumita extracts the piece he needs, lovingly cuts half a dozen slices, which he places atop bullets of sushi rice daubed with wasabi and perhaps a brushstroke of ponzu, then distributed by hand across the counter. My most recent meal consisted of 24 glistening gems of mackerel, snapper, bream, and scallop (among others); a glass of sake and a couple of beers slaked my thirst. The tab for the food (a la carte, from $3.50 to $6 per item) was an eyebrow-raising $95. Gulp!

And finally, despair not that Anthony’s has closed its Shilshole Marina location. It does look rather forlorn, at the end of its parking lot, but the lease was up, and the building required an enormous amount of work to keep it up. You may recall that Azteca, at southern end of Seaview, called it quits some years ago and was converted to office space. Walter Clark’s old Windjammer, a few blocks north, is getting new life as a Duke’s Chowder House, but that’s still some time in the future.

Which leaves Ray’s Boathouse, that venerable institution at 6049 Seaview Avenue NW. They gave it a makeover back in 2012, and another one a couple of years later to add patio space and few more window tables. And now they’re offering brunch. The new chef, Paul Duncan, hails from Portland and spent time in Hawaii. And brunch is a fine time to enjoy the low-tide comings and goings of ducks, geese, and paddleboarders. Ray’s brunch may not come with all the goodies (fruit plate, muffins) that devotees of Anthony’s had come to expect, but the oysters are plump and tasty, the crab cakes moist, and the eggs benedict just fine.

As Ballard Avenue gets increasingly gridlocked, what with all the new restaurants and diners from all over town, there’s going to be increased interest, I think, in “Ballard West,” the strip leading to to the marina, past the once-thriving Canal restaurant, and along Seaview Ave NW itself. If nothing else, there’s plenty of parking on the wharf.



Ronald Holden is a restaurant writer for Pacific Publishing. His new guide to local food and drink, “Forking Seattle,” is available from Amazon.