Ever since I had the omakase at Sushi of Gari, I've always prescribed to going full monty at Sushi places and order the omakase (who doesn't love the word, omakase). The problem is that when you're constantly chasing an omakase dream, you're bound to be disappointed. Admittedly, there was a slight moment of disappointment when Azumi's omakase started because I thought it was a nigiri omakase (which is what Sushi of Gari offers and what I was craving) but then it was a became full bore five course meal of goodness so I was disappointed for long.
Naturally, I started off with a Shibui (bet you've never read that before). A Shibui seems akin to a Japanese Old Fashioned. Besides a big ass ball of ice, it has bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice, cherry syrup and cherry bitters. It hits all the same smoky, sweet notes you'd expect but with just a bit of tang. It was definitely a great portent for what was to come.
So, here's the lineup, in order for the omakase: a trio of raw preparations for an appetizer, a grilled king crab leg, a nigiri course, miso marinated black cod for the main, and a deconstructed cheese cake. Yeah, get some.
The trio consisted of wagyu carpaccio, a toro tartare, and a salmon crudo. The carpaccio was first for me (you could of course eat these in any order and in any way but I preferred the one down, more to go approach). There's a good spicy nutty kick from the achiote oil and chimichurri that's served with the wagyu but not overpowering enough to mask the flavor of the meat which definitely starred. The toro tartare may have been my favorite bite. There was buttery and creamy all over the place courtesy of the blue fin and quail egg. The yamamomo fruit they included added great sweetness (need to find someplace to buy these). The salmon crudo continued the sweet train paired with cherry tomatoes and some citrus.
The king crab may have been the biggest surprise. I've always stayed away from ordering king crab since they arrive already cooked and it takes a deft hand to add tons of flavor without drying them out. This preparation was grilled with a spicy soy butter marinade & chives. It included a grilled lemon which had this smoky lemony flavor going on that was quite a revelation. The soy butter mixture seemed have penetrated every part of the crab and not only kept it from drying out but created a rich creamy flavor in the crab. They included some popcorn crabs (sawagani) for some texture but probably didn't need them since all I was concentrating on was getting through every nook and cranny of the shell.
Finally, nigiri! On the docket was, I think, toro, hamachi, saba, uni, red snapper, and ebi. You can't go wrong with toro and hamachi. Ebi is just a wonderfully sweet surprise especially since they also gave you the head of the shrimp. The saba (at least I think it was) was a bit fishy but probably has always been for my palette. The snapper was fresh but nothing that I remember too clearly. But, the uni was pretty amazing. I've never been a fan and actively disliked uni when I was younger but man, after eating this, I regret ever being that hard-headed. That kind of creamy, earthy flavor is something that's always resonated with me and this had it in spades. Is there any way to make up for years of dumbness?
The miso marinated black cod is something that I will always crave ever since having something similar at Izakaya Seki. I've chased this type of dish at every Japanese restaurant I've ever been in and most of time I've come up short. Not this time. The miso gives the cod such a depth of flavor and the cod was so perfectly cooked that every bite melted away. Served with the dish was a miso sauce, crispy lotus root, assorted veggies, and another yamamomo (fuck, yeah), but I hardly notice since the black cod was all I focused on. The miso butter really paired so well with the delicateness of the fish that the memory of this flavor will always be in my top five all time dishes.
The meal ended with what our server described as a deconstructed cheese cake called the Shiroi Kumo. It had some assorted berries, a cream cheese mousse and what I can best describe as a brittle on top. There were also some togorashi spiced nuts sprinkled on the plate. The dessert was a fitting end to a great meal. Fresh berries, a creamy mouse and crunch brittle is always welcome to me. The spicy nuts, though, gave it that additional layer of complexity since you could that swirl spicy sweet vibe all around your palette.
It's been a while since I've really explored Baltimore's cuisine. I don't know if it was because I hadn't developed my love of food since last time I was here or whether or not Baltimore's cuisine has developed so much in the last 10 years or so. Azumi is definitely a place that wasn't around when I was here but is definitely a place I'd put up against anywhere I've ever eaten.
Azumi, 725 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, 443.220.0477