The holiday season was a busy one, filled with gifts, holiday get-togethers, hams and turkeys and beef roasts, beverages, travel (complicated with the constant loading and unloading of baby supplies) and dining out with friends. One such seasonal meal I greatly anticipated was a visit eight of us made to Umi in Buckhead, the “ultra modern” Japanese restaurant helmed by Chef Fuyuhiko Ito and his wife, Lisa.
Having only visited for a proper meal once, early in the restaurant’s existence, I didn’t feel I had enough experience with Umi to form a solid opinion of the place. Anyone who reads this knows I prefer sitting at the sushi bar for a personal experience, and Umi is more of a flashy see-and-be-seen type of place, but I like Chef Ito (he and I do know each other), and the quality and breadth of his offerings are nearly unmatched in Atlanta. So are the prices. Many prices are on par with Tomo, particularly the more creative and Nobu-style appetizers which are often sliced thin, carpaccio style, dressed with various accessories.
I mention price, simply because it’s a reality that price is more of a factor for me these days, which determines where I can visit, with what frequency, and to some degree it dictates my order. One of my most absolute favorite sushi fishes is kinmedai (also written kimme-dai) aka splendid alfonsino, a type of sea bream. People go nuts for rich tuna belly (which used to be a trash fish in Japan and fed to cats, by the way) but fat can also hide the true nature of the flavor of fish. I will take a high-grade chutoro (medium fatty tuna) any day over otoro (pale pink belly tuna). But back to Kinmedai – it’s a pure fish, beautifully clean and sweet, and the head makes a wonderful soup. It’s not a fish readily available at most sushi restaurants, and it almost always comes from Japan. At Taka Sushi it is the most expensive nigiri listed – $11 for two pieces. At Tomo and Huku it is $12. At Umi it is $22.
But I’m not posting to gripe prices – a visit to Umi is a treat and I was looking forward to being able to sample so many items due to the size of our group. We had appetizers, salads, sashimi, nigiri, and desserts. The food was all excellent, and it was a grand time. We made sure to order as we went, versus ordering everything up front, to ensure everything was prepared a la minute.
My favorite bite, which prompted another order, was the tuna at the top of the post. Beautifully blood red and roundly flavored tuna nigiri, with nikiri sauce and shiso leaf between the rice and fish. Awesome. A few more items below.
Aburi style shima aji nigiri – the style is intended to be slightly cooked, though I found them to be cooked more than my liking, deafening the flavor of the fish. I would have preferred this raw, though I enjoy the way the rice warms up in this style.
ikura and quail egg
ankimo – monkfish liver
Two of the few wines – yes!