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Sometimes you love a restaurant for a particular dish. Sometimes you love it because the fry cook is a genius or one of the bartenders is hot or because the kitchen always seems to make your riblets just right. Once in a while, though, a restaurant comes along that you love because it defines an entire neighborhood or city. Maneki is one of those—a unique place that has transcended mere goodness and become a kind of culinary landmark, woven indelibly into the genetics of the Seattle restaurant scene. Open for more than a hundred years, Maneki offers certain plates and presentations obtainable nowhere else in the entire area. It's an idiosyncratic place, and tends to inspire strong feelings in those who either love it for the weight of its history and the talent in its kitchen or hate it simply because they don't get what the big deal is about just another Japanese restaurant in a city bursting with them. We are firmly in the former camp, and can see Maneki acting like church—a place to be absolved of certain culinary sins by eating as close to the root of one of the world's great mother cuisines as you can get without a passport and a plane ticket.
I used to live in Japan, and I frequently get cravings to remind me of my time there. Lucky for me, Maneki is a block from my house. Even if it were across town, though, this is the spot I'd come for Japanese.
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