A trip to Trapper's on Sixth Avenue Tacoma during the restaurant's opening week found the newest addition of the regional sushi chain performing just as I'd expected - they've been packed. It seems no matter the outpost you visit, Trapper's always is busy. Is that because of the modern spin on the sushi concept? The quick turnaround of rolls? The oversized rolls that can feed two diners? The all-you-can-eat specials? The fair pricing? I don't know what it is exactly, but the formula seems to work at Trapper's.
Trapper's is the kind of sushi restaurant that seems big on everything except prices - big rolls, big toppers, big flavors and big on friendliness. I like to describe it as the gateway drug to sushi for young people. Learn the ropes with the mish-mash of cultures and flavors with Trapper's sushi, but when your palate has matured and you're ready for a refined sushi experience, graduate to Gari of Sushi, Sushi Tama or Fujiya (my three favorite Tacoma sushi restaurants, but add Gig Harbor's Bistro Satsuma, too).
The interior of the new Tacoma eatery, which opened July 2, breathes casual with shiny touches, from the funky metal tabletops to the sushi bar wrapped in diamond plating. The space holds around 50 diners – with eight tables and about 14 stools at the sushi counter. The restaurant has nearly the same footprint as Overtime Bar and Grill, which opened and closed at that location in 2012.
Trapper's probably is best known for its maki rolls, but there’s also sashimi, hand rolls and nigiri, as well as teriyaki, tempura, miso and more. There’s a kid’s menu, too. For vegetarians – Trapper’s has a thoughtful menu of a half dozen vegetarian rolls. The vegetarian selection looks better than what I’m used to seeing on Tacoma sushi menus.
We stuck with the maki menu, which lists well over 50 rolls (it takes several minutes to read through all of them). A Marvelous (10.50) was stuffed with tempura shrimp and tuna, flavored with garlic cilantro sauce and covered with thin slices of avocado. The taste was complicated, a little bit of a crazy flavor symphony - and an even seesaw between sweet and hot. The roll was so big, it was difficult to eat in one bite.
The Uncle Steve ($8) was a pumped-up play on a spicy tuna, the roll stuffed with slivers of grassy, fresh jalapeno and green onion. Tobiko added salty bursts of flavor. The heat rolled on for several minutes after finishing. They aren't delicate with flavor here.
I give extra points for the Cryssi ($9.50) for being a vegetarian roll that's thoughtfully composed, but the texture of this portabello, asparagus and onion roll turned gummy from too light of a trip to the fryers - it also was soaked with grease.
Trapper’s is a small regional chain with roots in East Pierce. Trapper O’Keeffe opened his first sushi restaurant in Bonney Lake in 2004. That restaurant spawned a sibling in Covington in 2009, then a Puyallup restaurant in 2010. Stores in Kent and Bremerton followed.
It’s a family business. O’Keeffe’s brother-in-law – a classically trained sushi chef from Osaka – taught family members the sushi business at his restaurant in Reno (that restaurant has since closed). When O’Keeffe moved to the Northwest to open his own sushi restaurants, his family followed. O’Keeffe’s three brothers – Frank, Jimmy and Jaysin Reyna – work at his restaurants and so does his mother, a niece and two nephews.
Trapper’s SushiWhere: 3118 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-891-2046, trapperssushi.netHours: Serving lunch and dinner daily