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Azumi: quite disappointing first impression

Kurtis | Jan 5, 201501:04 PM

Anticipated opening of this purported (per the developers) high-end Japanese restaurant was met with many disappointments. I can be a bit of purist when it comes to sushi though, and sushi is what I mostly tried on this visit.

Here's the list of what I tried:

SASHIMI (one piece to an order): Oh-toro, Chu-toro, Hamachi, Kampachi (ordered two pieces each, and they were out of Saba on Friday which was the day we visited)

NIGIRI (one piece to an order): Hirami

MAKI(6 pieces to an order): Kappa, and Kampyo maki

Seaweed and cucumber salad

Madai crudo

Sautéed Mushrooms

Age Dashi Tofu

Hudson Valley Foie Gras

Side of Satsumaimo Puree

Dessert: Yuzu

The sashimi cuts were unique in that they were quite large but too thin ly sliced (5-6mm) making it floppy; I ended up folding them in half (easily done as thin and large as it was) to hold it with chopstick in order to dip it in soy sauce (oddly they brought out sake glasses for the soy sauce and replaced it with more appropriate dishware when requested). The knife skills here weren't clean or exacting, and rice was cold for both maki and nigiri as well as dry and not seasoned as it should. Quality of the fish themselves were what disappointed me the most as I had substantially better quality sashimi in a mid-tier Japanese in LES Manhattan previous weekend and at Izakaya Seki in DC the weekend before (for about half the price for oh-toro at both places, and their price for this is higher than the top-tier joints in NYC). With unseasoned, cold and dry rice, maki rolls didn't work well as it became a bit of laborious chewing experience. Overall I found their sushi quite sub-par, and to compare, quite a bit below mid-tier sushi joints in NYC which is where I most frequently eat sushi.

Some mixed result with their other items too: The crudo had uncomfortably dominating acidity not dissimilar to peruvian ceviche making it difficult to taste the fish. Their sautéed mushrooms and satsumaimo (sweet potatoes) puree were heavily buttered, deep-fried cubes of tofu in good dashi lacked crusty bites, and overwhelmingly strong red wine soy reduction overpowered the foie gras which was seared perfectly and was very good quality. The yuzu dessert had some technical flaws; the gelatin was so heavily set in the panna cotta/custard-ish part of the dessert rendering it unpleasantly rubbery, and small sugar sculpture decoration could only be broken with two hand after several determined swing at it with a spoon.

Based on this experience I am unlikely to be a regular here, and I think it will be hard for me to return here even with the craving for sushi when unable to travel. Certainly their omakase is tempting, and to be fair I should try their sushi sitting at the counter seat. All this may be bit unfair a judgment as the Chef Eiji Takase's style and strength may lies in composed fusiony raw dishes as well as cooked fish items (he comes from the line of Sushi Samba NYC - a Japanese-Peruvian fusion, Shibuya in LV's MGM Grand where his next door neighbors were Joel Rubochon, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril, and Hakkasan, and Japonais in Chicago- a Morimoto empire). So will Azumi match that of his former kitchens? As they are not and won't be in my wish list for places to visit I wouldn't know. But I'm afraid my hopes for a source of good quality sushi in Baltimore I was hoping Azumi to be seems a mismatch.

David Chu's China Bistro,
Izakaya Seki,
Wolfgang Puck Catering,
Azumi Restaurant
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