Budget Bites

------------------------- Mashiko 4725 California Ave. S.W., Seattle; 206-935-4339 Japanese -------------------------

West Seattle has gone hip. We've got movers and shakers, young families, and folks wearing pink hair, tongue studs and angst. Plus, our very own great sushi spot. Mashiko cops a heavy Belltown vibe, with unobtrusive hip-hop, ambient and acid jazz tunes, a sleek interior, and with-it young servers who are informed and friendly. Lunch is a serious bargain. Thrifty picks include udon noodle soups, tempura, teriyaki, donburi, noodle dishes, an amazing bento box sampler and fresh, creative and delicious Áa la carte sushi creations. There are also more expensive sushi and sashimi platters, well worth a small splurge. On the pricier dinner menu, nearly half the entrees are still under $11. Rarely does any restaurant so clearly and consistently convey its commitment to quality. Mashiko is packed, so come early. No smoking. Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday). Closed Sunday and Monday.

Mashiko Itemized bill for two

Vegetarian Bento, $10 # # Yaki Udon with chicken, $7 # Tax, $1.55 Total $18.55

# # A scrumptious sampler. Starring were vegetable tempura and agedashi - a tempura treatment of tofu, topped with grated daikon radish, thin slices of green onion and a delicate dressing. A nice stir-fry featured yellow squash, zucchini, napa cabbage and onions. Sushi highlighted pickled root vegetables and cucumber. This feast was rounded out by a dab of sesame-miso spinach. Miso broth, tea and rice included.

# This Japanese take on a noodle stir-fry proved to be comfort food par excellence. Fat, chewy white udon noodles were pan fried with bite-size pieces of teriyaki chicken, and thin strips of carrot, onion and green onion.