So based on positive preliminary reports we checked out Gari last night. The space is utterly unlike the old Greek restaurant that was there, even the shape seems different, deep but not very wide - maybe they cut it down and made two spaces? We forgot to check on leaving. Anyway, it's got a very hip-cool look, with deep textured accent walls, a sculpted backdrop to the sushi bar and a (somewhat annoying, actually) green laser show twirling on the wall.
There are eight two-tops, all along one wall, and eight or ten stools on the other side at the sushi bar. We were there from about 8 to 9:30 or 10 on a Thursday night and there were never more than eight customers in the place, and no one when we left.
Staff is very friendly, and service was prompt and professional. The china (from Crate & Barrel) is oversized and suits the atmosphere. The music played throughout the evening was outstanding and eclectic, a low-key mix of traditional Japanese, jazz, Enya, Western classical, and a touch of synth.
The unisex bathroom is a must-see, with deep blue walls, a cool modern sink, and an electronic trash bin that opens when you put your hand near it.
So OK, you ask, why all this blather about the decor and nothing about the food? I guess, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about the food. I started with miso soup ($2), which was excellent and had exceptionally light little tofu cubes in it. I'm not a tofu expert, and normally don't bother with it (though I'll eat it if it's there), but these were different than any I'd tasted before - the adjective that came to mind at the time was "fluffy.' They counterbalanced the strong-flavored seaweed quite effectively.
We ordered two apps, the wok-fried calamari ($8 or $10) and the lobster tempura roll ($12). The calamari was surprisingly large (2" - 3" rings), not rubbery but not the most tender I've had by a long shot. It was served with a tasty mango-chili sauce, but even so, I would not order it again.
The lobster was better, basically shreds of lobster in a cream-based (?) sauce wrapped with an asparagus stalk in a seaweed roll, deep fried with just a touch of tempura batter on the outside. It arrived mouth-searingly hot, with a drizzle of fruit sauce on the plate (mango again, I think).
There are three chef's choice fish platters (for one) on the menu, sushi ($20), sashimi ($25), and a sushi/sashimi combo ($28). We ordered one of the sushi and one of the sashimi to share, and when they showed up we realized we'd ordered too much food (especially after those heavy starters), each was around 20 pieces. Sashimi fans take note: the sashimi platter included four or five kinds of plain fish plus a couple of maki rolls.
The fish was definitely fresh, and of good though not stellar quality. Next time (and there will be a next time!) I'll choose my own selections from the a la carte menu though, the chef's selection included too many items that were a bit too chewy for my taste.
My wife loved all the fish, while I thought the rolls were great (I'll get to those in a moment) but the standard sushi were less than ideal. I think a perfect piece of sushi should be a balance between the fish and rice, should be sized to allow you to eat it in one bite, and should hold together when dipped in the soy/wasabi. These were unbalanced, the fish pieces were huge, at least two bites each (and twice as large as the rice beneath them), and the rice not only fell apart easily in the sauce, if you didn't pick them up carefully the fish simply came off the rice, as if it were just lightly sitting there and not formed by the chef to make a unit!
Anyway this is getting really long but I would like to say that the maki rolls (is that redundant?) were outstanding, especially the lobster app and one that was filled with avocado and cucumber and rolled in flying fish roe instead of seaweed.
All in all, we will be back, and will be more careful in our ordering henceforth.
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