June 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
3280 Peachtree Road Northwest
Atlanta, GA 30305-2439
I went out to this dinner not expecting to write more than an overview review thinking blindly that there wouldn’t be much to comment on plate by plate of sushi other than freshness level and presentation, but I obviously didn’t have a clear comprehension of the level of excellence and beautifully composed flavors that I was set to experience that evening. The four of us shared an extravagant meal with several bottles of wonderful and varied sake, and pretty much all that is left is for me to point and moan at some of the particularly wonderful dishes that stood out in the crowd and hope that you can appreciate them yourself at some point as well. I had the luxury of an expert ordering for us all (in Japanese, no less), and it was a bit difficult trying to match up what we got on the menu as some of the items didn’t seem to exist on their published menu, but I at least generally had a clue of what I was eating.
The first thing that struck me about the experience was the true level of elegance not only in the chic, contemporary Japanese stylings in all the surroundings and table decorations, but in the presentation. One of the many appetizers on our table was edamame which is nothing terribly special to me, but it felt transformed as our server grated a large pink Himalayan salt crystal tableside in the bowl.
Thinly sliced shima aji with grated himalayan salt, fresh yuzu, and e.v.o.o.
I’m pretty sure this dish sealed my newfound love and obsession with yuzu. My sleepy palette jolted awake with a clean, crisp wash of yuzu that melted into the olive oil and tender fish flesh. It was utterly simple and yet effortlessly flawless and I realized then that I was in for some nice flavor enhancements on some classic favorites.
Spicy Tuna Tartare
quail egg yolk served with trufflesoy
This was another winner and one of my favorites of the evening. I’m starting to realize I’m a real sucker for tuna tartare, and this set a new bar for me. As I hadn’t read the menu or description, I had no idea that there was going to be a perfect wave of truffle that always seems to give an effortless melting soft umami to the right components. The yolk added another delightful creamy smoothness along with the rich avocado. It was a real play on soft, melting textures and the trufflesoy was nothing short of genius as it was a perfect balance and coated the creamy textures flawlessly. I seem to recall a subtle dotting of tiny bits of roe that burst and really did a good job of nestling into the creaminess and shaking up the textural factor in a nice way.
ankimo (monkfish liver)
topped with Japanese cucumber and caviar with ponzu (above)
Futo Maki (below)
pickled vegetables with tamago and crab roll
The ankimo was an interesting surprise. As a bit of the foie gras of the sushi world, it was mildly rich and creamy, yet much silkier and cleaner than other fattier livers. Delicate and interesting with a lovely composed tangy ponzu tickling the edges and a thin watery cucumber crisp balanced on top, I was happy to give this a try.
The futo maki was an unexpected surprise and was soft and delicate and well executed texturally. It’s certainly not what I think of when I think of futo maki, which is usually an oversized bite that requires much chewing. There were nice nuances of pickled vegetables and fluffy eggy tamago inside.
Chilean sea bass
Robata grill binchotan
We ended up with a few examples of their Robata grill that evening some of which were served on the grill tableside and others already cooked. They use imported binchotan charcoal made of hardwood that burns at a low temperature for a long time.
This sea bass was another lovely item that I’d go out of my way to order again. The fish was cooked perfectly on the grill with a lightly-sweet tinged edge on the faintly smoky, caramelized edges which broke into huge, moist, fluffy fish flakes. The fresh citrus notes really set this alive too. This was easily one of my favorite representations of the Robata grill that evening.
Soft, and delicate in that pillowy slightly-chewy scallop way, these were lovely, but not particularly memorable for me.
Tsukemono Pickled Vegetables
These were fun and interesting as each vegetable seemed to be pickled in its own way. The brownish ones bottom most were my favorite, and I believe they were possibly burdock or gobo and were soft and sort of sweet. While many of the other ones were interesting, I found them to be a bit too salty for me to continue to eat them.
Mystery Baked Mayo Lobster
Another nice dish, but one that took more of a backstage for me personally. The lobster was soft and fresh with creamy tangy notes of mayonnaise and bits of nutty sesame as garnish.
Eggplant Miso Yaki
Unfortunately, this was one of my least favorite dishes of the evening. Even experiencing the eggplant at different levels of doneness as it continued to cook over the binchotan, it never was quite soft like I wanted it to be. The miso was also salty, one-note, and overwhelmed the delicate nuances of the eggplant’s flavors.
Miso Marinated Duck Breast
Miso Yaki Served with Scallions on a Hoba Leaf
Another dish that slid into the background, this had the same issues for me as the eggplant. It never felt cooked quite right and the briny miso overwhelmed the duck flesh. They are still rather impressive in their presentation, however.
Grilled Cod Cheek
One last item that I believe was cooked with the Robata. Whichever fish’s cheek this hailed from, it was a great variance of texture from chewy, crispy char to its soft center. This was another pleasant standout for me, and it had another lovely citrus-enhanced ponzu which served as a nice bright counterpoint to the woody charred flavor.
toro and scallions roll
An unsuspecting little maki that melted effortlessly in the mouth…probably because it was toro. There was a nice little pairing with soft scallion crunch, and this was oddly memorable perhaps because it was so unassuming in appearance and yet so lovely to eat.
I believe this is tai japanese snapper (above)
uni nigiri (below)
I believe these are chutoro (top)
I’m guessing kinmedai (golden-eye red snapper)
sake salmon (bottom)
These nigiri offerings were actually among my favorite things of the evening. Many of them had a brush of ponzu or trufflesoy or some other sauce brushed on so faint and so elegant that it elevated the nigiri to new levels while managing to only highlight the brilliance and the freshness of the fish. I exchanged many looks of pure delight as I sampled each of these–they were all spectacular in their own right. This was also what I’ll consider one of my first true experiences with uni, and while I didn’t fall in love, I was surprised and pleased as it had blown away my other subpar experiences with sea urchin. It was clearly fresh and in its prime. I highly recommend their nigiri along with some of the other amazing appetizers.
Mango Creme Brulee
with lemon squares
Finally, a really spectacular dessert. The mango flavors were bright and apparent in the creme brulee, and the sugar was burned perfectly. The lemon squares were prancing that fine line of tart and sweet, and the whole dessert was refreshing and creamy, and decadent but somehow light and I didn’t feel guilty eating it–even considering by that point I was really the only one attacking it. A perfect end to a really great meal indeed.
It’s strange how I wasn’t expecting much from this dinner, but perhaps that is how and why it was able to surprise me so. There were certainly a few low points, but perhaps that was because there were so many extremely high points that they just felt unexciting in their presence. I would without a doubt return especially now that I have some favorites and some curiosities about some of the other menu items based on this experience. Their nigiri which was pretty reasonably priced all things considered and is a must order, and it has since made it really difficult for me to enjoy pedestrian sushi when I know that this is available in the world. I’m now also undeniably curious about their Omakase Room, an intimate bi-monthly multi-course sake-paired event for up to 8 guests that is $250 per person.