After living in Los Angeles, where every block contains a Starbucks, nail salon and sushi restaurant, transitioning to sushi in Atlanta presented a challenge. Could I find fresh sushi? The same variety and quality I have become accustomed to? The answer is NO. Demand is higher in LA, so quality and value pricing follow. I have a few theories about the multi-factorial explanation for why Atlanta does not have good sushi.
– For most Atlanta residents, the idea of eating raw fish is strange and off-putting, much like it was for me until I was well into my 30’s
– For many of those who to eat it, sushi is an exotic dining experience, reserved for special occasions
– Most Atlanta diners, like most Americans, eat little beyond spicy tuna rolls, California rolls, etc. -this reminds me of eating Chinese food when I was a child in the 1970’s. My family would go once or twice a year, tops. My dad would always order the sweet and sour pork. I had no idea there was more to Chinese food than sweet and sour pork until my 20’s, when a friend of Chinese heritage introduced me to the real thing.
-Atlanta is inland and not an area commonly settled by any immigrants. Unlike the west coast, the Asian population there is small.
As a result of my Atlanta experience, I vowed to avoid sushi in France, since a posted menu tells one little about the freshness and quality of the fish (ironically no different from Atlanta or anywhere else). Last week, I passed a sushi shop, my cravings drawing me in. I should have been reassured by their advertising of the secure, temperature monitoring process for their fish. This left me feeling their sushi was manufactured centrally and shipped pre-made. I decided it was not to my taste and re-committed myself to avoid sushi in France.
After 2 weeks in France, I hit the breaking point. Still in Cannes at the time, I convince myself it is worth a try. And I am tired of bread and cheese. I go in and see that they are running the traditional Japanese “fast food” style sushi where the sushi dishes rotate on a lite conveyor belt, like luggage at the airport, and you take what you want and are charged by the plate. In a sushi bar in Japan, the diners eat it faster than the chefs can plate it, which is not the case here. No one wants to eat sushi that has ridden the belt for too long. It is kind of like old tuna salad that starts to crust from sitting out to long, except with sushi you cannot see the crust.
I decide to sit at a table outside, as in American restaurants, ordering from the menu means the chefs prepare it for you upon order. As expected, the menu offers only a few expected options tuna, salmon, and very basic rolls. I am not a roll eater anyway. I order miso soup off the bat and enjoy it so much, I almost order another one. I order 1 order of tuna sushi, so I can sample the tuna and decide for myself the quality and freshness before I go further. It is deep red, which I prefer to the lighter pink. A special treat is the way the wasabi is served. It is in a little jar with a tiny spoon. It is not the low end commercial paste that comes in tubes and is used in the States, rather it seems to be a fresher grated wasabi. I can only compare it to jar “cooked” salsa (the paste tube kind” to fresh salsa – what is served here. While it is not pure grated wasabi, whatever it is, I enjoyed it immensely.
I finish my meal by ordering tuna sashimi (now that it passed my test) and a bowl of rice. Satiated, I enjoyed my meal and relish in my good luck in finding fresh, decent quality sushi.
When I return to Atlanta, I plan to splurge at my two favorite sushi restaurant that meet the LA grade.
1-Tomo Sushi in the 3630 building on Peachtree St in Buckhead. Very pricey but AMAZING. Tomo was a chef at Nobu Las Vegas before opening his restaurant in Atlanta. I believe this is his second restaurant, but am not sure.
2-Taka Sushi and Passion on Pharr Rd in Buckhead. Taka has great relationships with fish buyers in the Tokyo market and blogs when he has something special coming in. His carpaccio appetizers delectably marry the flavors in the Japanese citrus and soy sauces to the fish. This is creative sushi at its best.
Can I make it the last 2 weeks of my trip without sushi? I am not sure. I know I will eat it daily when I get home.