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Sushi Zo: flawless

Tony Miller | Jul 18, 2007 02:45 PM

Last night we celebrated my birthday, and I chose to do it at Sushi Zo because of the astounding number of positive reviews here on Chowhound. It was a great evening.

I've been eating sushi for about 35 years. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable, but my preferences were largely established a long time ago and I haven't had any revelatory sushi experiences in many years.

Sushi Zo was something really new for me. I've only done omakase once, at a fine place in Tokyo 30 years ago, but I have no problem in leaving the choices to an expert chef. What became clear in following Keizo-san's instructions is that I habitually over-season what I eat with soy and wasabe. I make no apology for that, I enjoy the resultant flavors immensely, but I see that his is a much more delicate and subtle method of preparation. I probably won't change the way that I eat at more mundane establishments, but I thoroughly enjoyed his gentler method of preparation.

My companions were my wife and our best-friends couple. None of them are particularly expert about Japanese food, but all were game to try the omakase experience.

So, here's what we were served. I meant it when I wrote "flawless" above, but asterisks indicate the items I found especially delicious:

1. kummamoto oyster (popular favorite among the others, one of whom had never eaten an oyster of any description)
2. kampachi/amberjack (new to me)
3. ?? snapper
4. albacore
5. aji
6. scallop
7. *hamachi
8. *skipjack (I thought I knew this one, but it was an unexpected delight)
9. shima aji/yellow stripe jack (new to me)
10. *black snapper (I'm not usually a snapper fan, but this was a great exception)
11. *ankimo/monkfish liver
12. *butterfish (well named)
13. salmon
14. halibut
15. chu-toro
16. ono (new to me)
17. issaki (new to me)
18. aoyagi/orange clam
19. saba
20. anago
21. blue crab temaki (I requested this, based on previous reports, although we had already declared ourselves full)

We weren't served ikura, uni, sardine, kazunoko, or abalone before we called a halt. These are all things I like, so I'll know some of the things to request the next time.

We were served miso soup, yuzu juice and tea. With two "live" sakes (which I thought were superb, if pricey) and three draft Kirins, our pre-tip total was $315. We got off considerably easier than I expected.

My wife has a tiny appetite, so she usually orders sashimi rather than sushi to avoid getting over-filled with rice. We mentioned this to Keizo-san, and he served nearly all of her courses without rice. To my amazement, she stayed up with the rest of us through 20 courses -- she said she was afraid to stop and miss anything. All three companions declared this an outstanding and enlightening experience.

I have occasionally had toro, hamachi, salmon and katsuo tataki that I found even more blissful than any single item at Zo, admittedly with my heavy-handed soy/wasabe dousing. But every bite here was perfect; he is obviously the master that his reputation indicates. Keizo-san was personable and helpful, with no perceptible attitude. The two server ladies were attentive and pleasant (one warned me on the way in that they don't offer California roll -- as if). The decor is understated but pleasant, and Tuesday night would seem to be an ideal night to try Zo -- maybe six or eight other counter customers during our 2-hour visit, and two or three couples at tables. Basically Keizo-san was our personal chef for the evening.

Can I say anything more? Without flaw, really, and I can hardly wait to go back.

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