Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where has all the good sushi gone?

I love, love, love sushi. Whether trendy rolls or stripped down sashimi, I'm a passionate adorer of raw fish. Not just any fish will do, though. It must be ultra-fresh, the kind of fish that melts in your mouth. When I lived in LA, this type of top-notch sushi abounded. Katsu-ya still lives on in my memory as one of the most amazing places to eat on the face of the earth. Their crispy rice with tuna will blow your mind. So buttery and flavorful with the perfect crunchy contrast. I'm drooling just remembering it. Sigh...

Even NY sushi never thrilled me the way LA sushi did. That said, our neighborhood sushi joint, Cherin, was all about trendy rolls, but still the fish was great, the prices were low, and you'd be amazed at how good eel and banana can be together!

And now here we are in Atlanta, where there is a profound dearth of great sushi at good prices. Fine, we're not on the coast, I get it, but still why aren't there more restaurants serving great sushi? Our neighborhood sushi restaurant, Zuma, rates well in places like citysearch, but they insist on bathing just about all of their fish in mayonnaise based sauces, which 1) kills the notion of sushi as healthy eating and 2) suggests a certain lack of quality fish to me.

So imagine my pleasure at discovering two good options recently. No, these places are nowhere near as great as my beloved Katsu-ya, but still they are miles better than the other options I've tried here. First was Nakato, which is actually the first place I ever tried sushi back when I was 15 and on a date with a guy who smelled of cigarettes and his Asian-fetish mother who was flirting with the staff. Weird, right? Fortunately, sitting at the sushi bar will get you basic rolls and sashimi and good quality fish. Nothing amazing, but far better than mayo-drenched rolls.

Even better was my meal this weekend at Blue Fin. It's trendy there for sure, but not in the annoyingly blasting music sort of way that implies the food is bad but the scene is good. The white tuna usuzukuri and the hamachi jalapeno usuzukuri were two standout appetizers. The slim cuts of fish were little jewels on the plate, and were so tender, I forgot all the gooey messes I've endured at Zuma.

I'm also a sucker for crunchy roles, not overly fried, but just a smattering of tempura flakes adds such a thrilling crunch to rolls. The last samurai was just right on that front, it was spicy but minus the unnaturally orange sauce you find elsewhere and the flakes scattered on top provided the perfect texture. With a total bill of 70-something two people, including one drink a piece, it's not cheap but not a bad deal either.

I still wish I could find a great neighborhood sushi place that delivers, but I guess you can't have it all. At least I'm happy to know that I don't have to give up on good sushi entirely by leaving the coasts.



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