With recent visits to MF Buckhead, Huku, Taka, and Tomo, I continued my sushi education by meeting up with the always hated, never imitated Foodie Buddha at Sushi House Hayakawa. I had never visited this Buford Highway institution, brought to us by the eponymous chef Art Hayakawa, even though many consider it to be the best sushi in Atlanta. As such, I was pumped to try Hayakawa’s raw fish and urchin ‘nads.
On a sushi related side note, I think Taka writes the best chef written blog in Atlanta, possibly the universe. Please read this weekend’s post where a customer left him quite the unique tip.
I idled up to the left end of the bar at Hayakawa and waited on my cohort. The small dining room was mostly full, having a few large groups of Japanese men, but the packed sushi bar was full of my fellow round eyes. The couple next to me were having a celebratory meal, which I discovered during our obligatory conversation. I offered the same grunted responses I’d extend during the forced banter with a row mate on a plane, when I don’t really want to chat but don’t have the chutzpah to just tell them to leave me alone. A problem which my dear father has never faced, as any potential conversation is quickly extinguished after he imposes his physical dominance during “The Battle of the Shared Armrest”.
So I’m left with the chit chat. We come here all the time, it’s my birthday, have you been here before, here’s what you should order, are you waiting on someone, how much can you bench press, etc. And so it goes.
Right around the time the couple received their second spicy tuna roll, exclaiming “This sushi is THE BEST!”, Foodie Buddha arrived, twenty minutes late due to car trouble. Possibly due to normal wear and tear on an eight year old car, but I have a strong suspicion it’s an Opus Dei collective of Atlanta chefs that dumped sugar in his gas tank.
And so we ate.
I didn’t take photos, but FB sent me these low-res pics from that evening night. These are the highlights.
Oysters – a briny and tongue-awakening way to start.
Squid with uni and wasabi stem. Wonderful presentation, even better texture and taste. Slippery and creamy and briny excellence.
The sashimi platter, which I found to be the most excellent unadorned fish I’ve had in Atlanta. The fish was obviously of superb quality, like many of the best sushi restaurants in the area. But it was the expertly crafted cut of the fish that stood out to me, creating the best size and resulting texture for each type of delicious sea specimen. In addition, the clam on the front right side of this platter was so clean and crisp, it was an education of what this shellfish can and should be.
This wasabi stem puree accompanied the sashimi; its mild nature added a welcome flavor dimension to the fish without being quite as pungent as traditional wasabi root or the fake wasabi-colored horseradish paste.
Dish of the evening alert! Super high quality sushi rice, ikura, and uni. This is a dish I may have shied away from even a year ago, and now realize the awesomeness put down in front of me. The bright and deliciously creamy uni works well on the palate with the sticky rice, with welcome bursts of saline from the salmon roe as my tongue pushes the entangled mixture towards the roof of my mouth. This dish represents something unique within sushi that I feel like only now I’m beginning to “get”, and once these flavors get entrenched in the taste memory banks, it’s a tough thing to shake. The quality of product makes an even bigger difference with this sort of dish too.
A bit of fruit for dessert, and really I don’t recall what it was. I’d prefer more uni or maybe tamago for “dessert”.
Oh and that reminds me, we did have a few pieces of nigiri, which I found to be the low point of the meal. Our three pieces were prepared by Art then proceeded to sit there on the counter for almost ten minutes before our waitress realized she was to bring them to us. By this time the temperature was off, the fish flaccid and sad looking, and my piece of pricey otoro had an unwelcome crunchy section in the middle of the otherwise creamy tuna belly. I don’t think this is representative of the overall quality of the nigiri at Hayawaka, I just think I stumbled upon the occasional poor showing of a piece of fish, along with a service misstep.
But still overall it was a very good meal, with a few superb moments, friendly and fun service (Art’s a trip), and the price was fair, falling somewhere between Huku and MF Buckhead.