Now that almost a month has passed since Yuri's visit, I had better hurry up and get through posting about it, so that I can move on to more seasonal topics - seasonal eating being highly important to life in Japan. Fortunately, sushi is a pretty seasonless food, unless you go to the really high-end places where they only serve two or three fish which are at their current peak of deliciousness. So here's a review of Rainbow Roll Sushi, the restaurant where Yuri and I ate on his last night in Tokyo.
The idea behind Rainbow Roll is re-imagining the Americanized version of a sushi restaurant in a new, uniquely Japanese way. The restaurant is thus closer to what you would experience in the U.S. than in a traditional sushi shop in that the emphasis is on flamboyant presentation, creatively named rolls, and a lounge-type atmosphere. But the quality of the fish is as high as you would expect in Japan, and that makes it worlds better than any sushi I've ever had in the U.S.
After toasting Yuri's week in Japan with the cold sake poured to overflow the glasses and fill up the lacquer boxes as well, we ordered our dinner. The first appetizer was the Tower of Tuna, and right away Yuri appreciated that he wasn't in Nashville anymore. This little work of art, only about two and a half inches in diameter, consists of a layer of raw fatty tuna, a layer of avocado, a layer of something finely diced cucumber, and a layer of even more finely diced tomato, all floating on a clear dashi fish-broth jelly and soy sauce base, with basil pesto and fine green onions to the side. The tastes are a perfect combination, and all the ingredients are perfectly fresh, but it's the assembly into a tower that makes it so memorable.
Our other appetizer was this inventive variation on a spring roll - translucent slices of tai (sea bream) wrapped around carrots and cucumber, set to sail on a sea of goma (sesame) dressing. Next up was the salmon roll pictured at the top - a fairly common American combination of cream cheese and cucumber inside and tiny red caviar dusting the outside. But the thick slices of smoked salmon on top, the salmon roe on top of that, and the tiny leaf garnishing all were very Japanese.
Here's the spicy tuna roll. Unfortunately, a photo can't capture the perfection of this incarnation of the overworked standby of the genre. Under all that lettuce, the spice so perfectly balanced that while it's definitely hot, you can still taste the fish, and the vegetables provide just the right amount of crunch and freshness to contrast with the soft, spicy tuna.
Winning the award for pure prettiness was our plate of nigiri-sushi. Each piece of fish set atop a ball of rice, in the ordinary Japanese style, was embellished with a surprising but delicious accompaniment. Clockwise from the top left, that's medium-fatty tuna with tofu sauce, kampachi with grapefruit and caviar, salmon with mango, horse-mackerel with garlic, mackerel with kelp and grated radish, and salmon roe with ... nothing else. It was supposed to come with sea urchin and salmon, but when I asked them to leave off the urchin, they left off the salmon too. Zannen.
They call this last one the Caterpillar Roll, but unlike most American rolls of that name, this one is vegetarian, with avocado on top and tempura asparagus inside. Normally I avoid tempura-filled sushi whenever possible, since the fried coating gets soggy inside the rice and makes the whole thing taste unpleasantly heavy and greasy. But not this time. Even with the avocado, it tasted light and not at all oily. The tempura even retained its crunch. It was yet another example of how well Rainbow Roll does what it does.