by Staff Writer
Chef and owner Brady Ishiwata, formerly Executive Chef at Canlis, has pulled off a very difficult act, bringing Canlis-quality food with artistic flair and setting in the White Center Vibe. The contrast is classic culinary, bringing various flavors and textures into balance. (All the more exciting when executed in a “can’t be done” venue.) At Tomo, quality and presentation were top-of-the-game expressions. It contrasted with a serving staff in shorts, tee shirts, tattoos, thumpy music and hardwood tables. The setting is very casual. Tomo is in White Center, but the clientele was clearly not from the town. At $200 per person, it is a bit pricey for most non-incorporated King County berg locals.
My wife and I went to Tomo, named after Brady’s mother, (which means “friend” in Japanese) for our 44th wedding anniversary. We began with an unusual cocktail, Garden Gnome: Sugar Snap Pea, Mint, Dill, Lime, and Soda. It was a summer salad in the mouth…the dill was expansive on the palate, a great way to refresh and get set for the fixed course menu on a hot night.
The fixed menu was very well-balanced. The early courses leaned into vegetable dishes with creative flair. We began with a grilled avocado salad with frisee and baby fennel, but the pickled seaweed really set this off! A terrific combination of acid, bitterness, savory, and fat, each with a unique flavor. This first course set the trend and was unwavering in excellence. The summer squash salad boasted an unusual arugula oil that worked well with wine vinegar and made a complete circle of flavors.
Next was the highlight of the evening, an extraordinary crab sambal, a spicy, chili-based sauce from Southeast Asia. It was presented in a cream blend that was out of this world! The main course of pork collar was perfectly smoked, and the rhubarb-reduction base was a perfect match.
We also went with the wine pairing (this was not in league with the food.) Greg Bonny, a South Puget Sound native, has put together an extensive wine list. The first pairing was a solid choice of a Sauvignon Blanc from Hungry. It was balanced and bright with a very clean palate. From that point, it felt like the wines were more an adventure than a pairing. They were unique but not excellent. It may be challenging to pair wine with such avant-garde cuisine. The temptation to follow that mindset might be too tempting with wine. So if you want an adventure, the pairing menu is your huckleberry. The wine list may be your best choice if you want something more traditional and classic.
Tomo is an experience that I hope many Burienites will take advantage of to expand their local culinary palate. Make your reservations well in advance, as it may take weeks to get in. There is a $45 deposit when booking; the deposit is applied to the bill. Dress casually but expect elegance in your mouth.