My relationship with sushi is love/hate. I love good sushi, but anything below outstanding is unacceptable. This sounds snobby, I know, but some quick background – growing up, I wouldn’t touch seafood. Couldn’t even go near it. No really. I couldn’t even get within 20 feet of the seafood aisle at the grocery store, lest the awful aromas of shrimp enter my nasal cavities, causing me to go into a fit of dry heaves. To avoid this embarrassing scene, I would just tell me parents that I would meet them at the other aisles and circumnavigate the store on a path of aroma avoidance. Seafood smells grossed me out so bad, at ten year’s old I was sure there was no way I would ever consume these vile sea creatures. “One day, your tastes will change”, my father would say. “No way, it’s disgusting”.
Well, the times have changed, but one thing holds true – I’m still not a fan of the “fishy” smell. It’s only in my older age that I realized that good fish tasted clean and beautiful, and smells of the ocean, or nothing at all. So when I start gnawing on a grainy, stringy piece of salmon that smells similar to Baltimore, a deep seated response is triggered and I’m done. I can’t continue the meal and there’s a good chance I won’t eat sushi for months. The only way out of this funk is to face my fears and eat some damn good sushi.
Mr. Tomo Naito, thanks for bringing me back to the sushi light.
I had a fantastic lunch at Tomo in Smyrna today, with a Tomo frequenter who was eager to show me what they could do. I had barely sat down in a corner booth of the intimate, clean space, when he started ordering. Everything was wonderful, some dishes more impressive to the palate than others, though all executed with precision and intent. Some of these dishes may be considered “fusion”; the flavor combinations were aggressive, though welcome.
Dishes not photographed below include:
- Tomo uni – Uni wrapped in shiso, tempura fried – damn tasty
- Lobster roll with incredible sauce made of lobster roe – worth it for the sauce alone
- Japanese snapper nuta – charred (not cooked) fish with scallions
- Shima aji with a “pico de gallo” reminiscent salsa
- Clam sashimi with sliced lemon – this was crisp, slightly crunchy, the cleanest clam I’ve ever had
- Tomo sanshow seasoned lamb chops – Tomo had plenty of cooked dishes, this one was heavily seasoned and tasty
Our first sushi dish was this kampachi with serrano. The bitter microgreens and spicy serrano can overpower fish like this, but I still enjoyed it.
The kinmedai with hot oil and uni was ridiculous, one of my favorites, and obviously is beautifully presented
The lobster carpaccio with truffle oil and “Tomo salsa” was sliced perfectly thin, and though I was worried the truffle oil would overpower the lobster, it did not.
The thin sliced fluke fish with a dot of sriracha and a small leaf of cilantro was served with a ponzu jelly. The recommended way to eat it is to take a small piece of the jelly and set it on the fish, then sort of roll it all up into a single bite. It was creative, without being over the top.
We also sampled four of the desserts by Tomo’s wife, Kimiko. The truffles were solid, but not my favorite, but I’m not a walnut kinda guy.
Pear mousse with pear jelly and whipped cream was cool and refreshing, with some fun textures that play on the tongue.
Green tea tiramisu sounded interesting, though I am a bit of a tiramisu snob and while this version was fun to try, I like it less dense, and with liquor added.
The Japanese bread pudding with whipped cream was the hands down favorite for me. The texture was similar to crème brulee, and the sauce was killer. The sugar on top was a nice touch too.
I can’t wait to get back in there, and try some of these again, but some other awesome dishes like the miso cod and kobe with uni are calling my name.
See also: John Kessler’s recent blog post on Tomo