Thursday, December 06, 2007
Surfer Dude Sushi Master. I found that Umi Sushi & Grill had quietly opened, without signage or fanfare, so dropped in for lunch yesterday. Umi means ocean, and Yoshi, the owner and sushi chef is a surfer! He and his family hail from the beautiful area of Nikko, Japan via Santa Cruz. This new restaurant occupies the old Akira space, and you can see the tasteful transformation of the dining area into a theme that matches its owner. Those of you familiar with Akira will notice the mountain now has ocean waves at its foot!
This restaurant is definitely a family affair with wife Atsuko, mother Masako and aunt all helping out. Masako personally made the iris ikebana above.
As well as this more brightly colored arrangement.
These were gracing the newly arranged table section, which instead of being set up for dining separately allows for a more communal, friendly, and family like experience. In fact dining here had the flavor of being embraced by a happy Japanese clan. Umi Sushi is emphasizing family type food, and they've the atmosphere to match. The restaurant has only been open for five days, what Atsuko termed a 'soft' opening to get all the aspects tuned up, and be able check out various menu items to see what kinds of things the customers will want to return for. So be gentle if you go soon, and if you want to have some input on possibly including your favorite Japanese dishes, you should definitely try Umi Sushi in its formative stages. I have to say though that there were no glitches, and the service was superb as well as the food even though just opened.
On to the food! With my order came both a light and fresh salad with a unique use of celery, and a delicious miso soup.
I couldn't resist ordering one of the specials on the chalkboard, a yam roll. Surprisingly, since I've never been attracted by rolls with cream cheese as an ingredient. However the combination of tempura yam and cream cheese in a roll sounded like a winning combination. Yoshi was careful to ask if I had any nut allergies before adding the crushed almonds as the topping. Wow. I hope these make it to the final menu as these were quite good!
Then my main course showed up, the gomoku chirashi. It's a vegetarian (vegan if you take away the egg) chirashi sushi, and was served with a nice assortment of tsukemono (pickles), including my favorite takuwan (the yellow colored daikon radish). The rice under the chirashi had bits of another favorite, gobo (burdock) as well as a hint of ume (sour plum) topping for a fresh and tasty dish. It was also beautifully presented in a closed lacquered box.
I couldn't resist ordering a desert when I saw the unusual and traditional treats on the dessert menu. I was about to choose the chestnuts with matcha, when the family highly recommended I try the completely home made cream anmitsu. Homemade ice cream, red beans and kiwi cover kanten, a kind of jello made of seaweed.
Here is a piece of the kanten which you can't see in the photo above. Masako took some time to explain to me about the recent 'kanten craze' in Japan. Apparently it has shown some promise for assisting in weight loss, and she told me that it is popular just to add some of the granulated agar powder into the water in the rice pot along with your rice and cook as normal. I may just have to try that! The enjoyable repast ended with a surprise gift from the family, a "goen" which is a symbol of good luck, and good omen for future closer relationship. Goen is from "go-yen", which is a five-yen piece which is placed on a string for the charm. Goen is also used for the first offering to the shrine on New Year's Day, the belief being that the double meaning of the word also has a association with becoming closer to the spirits (God), and thus more likely that your prayer will be answered.