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Sushi Huku

It has only been three hours since I departed Sushi Huku, and already I want to go back.

Oh, my word. How has this place been in Atlanta for 20 years without me knowing about it?

I've eaten a lot of sushi in this city. I've been to Silk, Hashiguchi, Soto, Nickiemoto's, Prime, Fuji Hana, Goldfish, Minado, Aqua Blue, Umezono, Sushi Mio, Nakato, Benihana, Happy Sumo, Yamato, Ru San's, Shallots, JP Sushi, Sakura, Sushi Me, Kampai, Genki, and others that I'm forgetting. The only three of note that I haven't yet visited are Taka Sushi, Zuma Sushi, and MF Sushibar, and the latter two are new and trendy. I have toyed with the idea of learning Japanese just so that I could enjoy sushi more.

I divide sushi restaurants into three categories: authentic, rock star fusion, and "we have it in addition to our regular offerings." The latter doesn't necessarily mean bad sushi. Prime is one of Tom Catherall's places, and the restaurant is very serious about being solid all-around. He pays one of the most popular sushi chefs in Atlanta to stay there, because he knows that where Jimmy goes, the sushi crowd follows. Prime also offers the best steak deal in the city.

Nickiemoto's is still probably the best of the rock star gaijin sushi joints that I've visited. It's not quite as sharp as it was at its original location, and it is very Midtown, but despite being fairly Americanized, the quality is reliably decent, and getting my hag on by making a rainbow connection with the servers is usually a bonus. ;)

Up until now, Hashiguchi was my favorite authentic sushi restaurant. It remains a strong contender: I'd go there any day of the week and it will always hold a special place in my heart because it's where David and I had our first date.

It's just that tonight, I went off the beaten path, and landed in hardcore.

I'd heard that Sushi-Huku did the sushi on the buffet at the Ritz-Carlton. The spicy tuna roll was the best I'd ever had, and so I made a point to seek it out, especially since it's not far from where I work.

I tried one day at lunch, only to find out that they don't serve lunch. They don't have to: their dinner crowd (on a Tuesday night, mind you) keeps them plenty comfortable. I almost don't want to tell you about it because it is now my precious, but fortunately my desire to share with those I love wins out. ;)

David is out of town right now, so I decided to swing by there for dinner. Honestly, from the moment I entered, I knew I'd found the real thing.

Jackie, the owner's daughter, happened to one of several servers taking care of me once I sat down at the bar. I told her I'd found them through the Ritz-Carlton presence, yadda yadda, and we got to talking. I honestly liked her immediately, and I think she sized me up pretty quickly as someone not afraid of a little adventure. During the course of the conversation, she made a dismissive hand wave at the English menu and guided me toward the Japanese menu, which she kindly translated for me. "Oh, you have uni!" I exclaimed happily. "We have better uni than any in the city," she said with a smile. There was no hyperbole: she wasn't bragging or trying to sell me anything. She simply knew her product, and calmly stated it as fact. I genuinely appreciated her taking an interest in looking out for me and hooking me up with some different options.

I'm having a hard time typing about this, because I just really want to gush and babble. The paper-thin duck with ponzu that I had as an appetizer was seductively subtle and lingering, as in "OMG, this is why I have taste buds." The understated complexity is a strong case for never damaging your palate because you want to be able to taste this. I wanted to lick the plate. The samurai roll, kind of like a spicy tuna roll plus other goodness, melted away in my mouth, it was so tender. I took her recommendation and tried the horse mackerel nigiri. "I always know spring has arrived when I'm able to get horse mackerel," she said. Art, one of the junior sushi chefs (his real name sounds like Artesuhi Hayakawa, and I'm sure I'm butchering the spelling), said "that's from Japan." Yes, I'd been there less than 30 minutes, and already I was making a point to learn names. Art was a pleasant fellow: witty, but also informative. He's been making sushi for over 25 years. He's one of the two assistant sushi chefs, and he's been doing this for over 25 years. I have no idea how long that means that Chef Huku, Jackie's father, has been doing it, but more than long enough to become a master.

A few minutes after I arrived, eight black-suited Japanese businessmen came in and took a table. I nodded over there while talking to Art, and said "that's usually a good sign." He smiled, and told me 44% of their clientele is Japanese. I am not at all surprised, but they're more than hospitable to us round-eyed folk as well. Fenn, the African-American next to me at the bar, is a serious regular. He's been going there for ten months, and has his own personal chopsticks (don't know if they keep them for him, or if he brings them). He told me this is where he brings his clients. He had this sashimi plate with things on it the likes of which I'd never seen, including several slices of gorgeous, beet purple shading into black, dark tuna. I am so ordering this the next time I go.

Service was incredibly attentive without being intrusive. Hot towels at beginning and end, and a kindly cup of hot tea to conclude.

In my experience, I've found that going off the beaten path a bit is almost always rewarding. Tonight was exceptionally so.

I don't care how inconvenient it is. I will be going back. Someday, I'll make it to Matsuhisa in Los Angeles, Morimoto in Philadelphia, and Yoshi in Vancouver. For now, I'm glowing with the joy of having found the best sushi I've had in Atlanta in my almost 13 years here.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
Oooh, sounds amazing! That's got me wanting sushi, asap.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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