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The cleanest, most efficient Asian supermarket in town - Review by cat c | Inc Inc

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The cleanest, most efficient Asian supermarket in town 11/3/2007

I hate to be a voice of dissent, but let me say it anyway: Uwajimaya is certainly not bad, and it's really a mainstay for many people, Asians, Asian-Americans, Caucasians, etc., and a big part of the International District, with its modern, pan-Asian flavor. And the fish market is excellent, probably the best in the city. The vegetable and fruit section is very good, as well, with far more variety than almost anywhere and the quality usually at least better-than-average. The food court, I guess, brings a lot of tourists as well as regulars, not much different from Westlake Mall (maybe a little more authentic). But from the beginning, I felt it was pushing out the smaller Asian groceries (at least at this end of the ID) and providing a QFC kind of experience to Asian grocery shopping. And the prices were, considering the volume of business, not inexpensive compared to the Chinese and Vietnamese groceries. a 15 cent reduction in price on something $2-$4 is peanuts. I bought a top-notchy Japanese Tiger brand electric rice cooker (which, along with Zojurushi, are far superior to the Chinese or Taiwanese brands, which don't do brown rice) for $170 on sale--which was still more expensive than what you pay online (including S+H). And the return policy on such things was essentially "once you've used it, you can't return it." I also purchase my Japanese rubber acupressure sandals, which I wouldn't have been able to find elsewhere, here. For a real Japanese culinary or grocery experience, I am afraid this is still not that close (I've been to Tokyo). Efficient, clean (especially as compared to most Asian groceries)...and very crowded, which is another reason I find it not the most relaxed grocery shopping experience. On the other hand, I'll have to admit that the Chinese/Vietnamese markets up on 12th & Jackson (Viet-Wah, etc.) are REALLY chaotic by comparison. But generally the staff, especially the cashiers, are pretty polite, which is more of an ingrained Japanese cultural/societal thing (the Chinese, by contrast, are "nice" to those they are connected to in some way--"guanxi"). And I don't really need a whole (long) aisle full of various kinds of hot chili sauce and soy sauce. Sometimes less is more. (Trader Joe's provides an example of where pre-selection and scaled down selection is actually a good thing). Living in Asia years ago, I actually enjoyed going to smaller specialty stores rather than the gigantic Western-style supermarkets which were becoming the rage (and indeed still are and have become the norm, even in China today). There is a certain charmless, sterile impersonal quality to these supermarkets (think especially of Fred Meyer). Thought the era of the shopping mall was over. For such a gigantic grocery enterprise, one would think they would have planned better restrooms, too. Some of the Western groceries--seemingly randomly selected--are second-rate, things that I would never buy at a QFC, etc. Don't know why their buyers do such a poor job there. Quality, not quantity, please... more
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