Very nice to be back at Sushi Dojo. All new faces, but still a super friendly, super fun group. It’s like the revolving door of wait staff, and head chefs at this restaurant! One thing is consistent, the head chefs have yet to be Japanese. I don’t discriminate though! I’m not one of those that think you must be of that nationality to be a great chef of that cuisine.
On a more serious note, it’s funny how things like this matter to “people” though. Chef Xiao shared with us that before he joined Sushi Dojo earlier this year, he actually worked at some of the super high end French and Italian restaurants. I don’t remember in what order, nor the Italian restaurant’s name, but the French restaurant was Daniel. He shared that no matter how good you are, it’s very hard to actually gain that title if you are not of that ethnicity. Meaning, as a Chinese descendent, it’s extremely difficult to become a head chef at an established French or Italian restaurant. How crazy! I guess that matters to some…
Stories like this is part of why we sit at the sushi bar! Chef Xiao is very personable. He was good fun to chat with. If you take the time to talk/chat with your chef, you’ll learn quite a little bit about fish, about the preparation, and the stories behind it. That said, there was one thing I couldn’t quite figure out. Chef shared where he previously worked with us, but I don’t recall that list to include any Chinese Restaurants. This is peculiar because where deviates from traditional Japanese edo-mae style sushi, is with toppings made from Chinese spices. Interesting!
Chef offers two kinds of omakases at the bar:
- 15 Piece Sushi Omakase $90
- 13 Piece Sushi and Sashimi omakase $120
We decided for the Sushi and Sashimi Omakase:
- BOTAN EBI – Not a fan of putting fish on top of a big slice of citrus, but still very good. Where is my fried head???
- King salmon from New Zealand – Chef Xiao claims this as wild, but it is certainly fatty enough for me to consider farm. Who cares what it is, so long as it’s nice and fatty!
- AKAMI (Aged Bluefin Tuna) – Sad to say, this wasn’t fantastic, there was a tinge of funky aftertaste….
- TAKO (Octopus) – For a fully braised TAKO, this was much too chewy. Good flavor though!
- KANPACHI (Amberjack) – Beautiful! Super crunchy, well prepared!
- SANTA BARBARA UNI served with IKURA and SHISO – So rare to find Santa Barbara UNI this year. And the few times we had it, including today, we were disappointed. This serving had a bitterness, a grime and funk. The IKURA was a nice distraction, numerous crushed pears, but otherwise good.
- MADAI (Seabream) – Served with a crushed peppercorn-ish spice. The MADAI itself was very good, very fresh, but the peppercorn was too strong for this super mild fish.
- KINMEDAI (Golden eye snapper) – ABURIed (torched) and topped with a black Sea salt – FANTASTIC
- HIRAME (Wild caught flounder) – Served with Szechuan spicy oil and fried garlic chips. I would have entirely balked at this combo, but incredibly tender and good
- Smoked Arctic char – I don’t like smoked fish, that’s a broad and general statement, I know. But I just never met one I liked. Thus my judgement would be fairly swayed.
- AORI IKA (Squid) – ABURIed and topped with black sea salt. Good but really nothing special.
- HOTATE (Scallop) – Served with a sh*t ton of spices. Forgive the language, but I have no other way to describe. The bite without the spices was beautiful, super fresh, but the bite with, all I taste is spices.
- ENGAWA (Fluke Fin) – ABURIed and topped with scallion, citrus, and a tiny bit of salt. The piece was super-sized too!
- KOHADA (Gizzard Shad) – This was nice, but slightly fishier than preferred though…
- CHUTORO (Medium fatty Tuna) – served with a really FUNKY truffle and topped with gold flakes. First bite of fish alone was fantastic. Next bite with the Truffle was a disaster. Lesson learned, try the dressing before going for the big bite. I am a GINORMOUS fan of truffles, but that was some nasty truffle. That ruined the perfectly delicious fish!
- OTORO (Super fatty Tuna) – Served with grounded egg yolk. Not a huge fan of the egg yolk topping, it was not like when Saito at Ginza Onodera did it with the KOHADA, where it truly complemented the fish. This time, it didn’t do much for the fish, but it was still delish!
- HOKKAIDO UNI – So much better than the Santa Barbara one! Very good!
- OTORO (Super fatty Tuna) – ABURIed, and great!
- WAYGU, UNI, OTORO – Incredible, but honestly, who can actually have this in one bite??
- BOTAN EBI – Eh – really mediocre…
Chef Xiao is a super fun chef to sit with, to talk to, to learn from. Love a passionate chef, and Chef Xiao calls cooking his “destiny”. All in all, the meal was very good, the fish was very good, some of the pairings could have been toned down, but still highly enjoyable. At this price, we will be back again and again.