1/22/14

Superb Sushi on Smith

I could live on sushi, no joke. There's something about it that is so different from any other cuisine; perhaps it's the freshness or the fact that something so simple could taste so good, but I love it. So when I was invited to Aji 53 in Cobble Hill for dinner, of course I said yes!

Co-owner Kevin welcomed my friend and I on a cold January evening and proceeded to trick us into thinking it was summer with some sake sangria. I was a little hesitant at first because I'd never thought to mix rice wine with fruit, but the combination actually works quite well!

Sake Sangria
Our couple of courses, served by an adorable waitress who had the most clever t-shirt on (it was a picture of a smiling bowl soup with chopsticks in it and a word bubble saying "Miso happy!"), were not on the menu. Seasonality dictates what kind of fish the restaurant can order, Kevin explained. So while they will always stock staples like salmon, tuna and yellowtail, certain specialties are not always available. With that said, we had the Bonito (seared baby tuna served with fresh wasabi yuzu sauce) and Yellowtail Shots (sliced yellowtail sashimi wrapped around grilled whitefish, asparagus and lime sauce in a shot glass). The fresh wasabi on the bonito was like nothing I'd ever had before and I would highly recommend you make an effort to try some. This was not your typical pistachio green paste. The Yellowtail shots were incredible too. The mix of the raw and grilled fishes was unexpected, as were the asparagus and lime.

Bonito
Yellowtail Shots

Next we had our first off-the-menu, the Ocean River ($11) which included spicy lobster and avocado wrapped in salmon and served with ponzu sauce and truffle oil (something I'd never expect to find in a Japanese restaurant, but was perfectly satisfied with the result). This was probably the most typical sushi house appetizer we had, but still very different. I really liked it!

Ocean River

Next, we were taken on a worldwide tour of food, but always hearkening back to the influence of Japan. First up was the Blue Crab Fajita ($10), although it seemed like more of a quesadilla to me, it was comprised of fresh blue crab meat, red onion and cream cheese in a tortilla and baked. I'm not typically a fan of cream cheese in my sushi (whoever invented the Philadelphia Roll was clearly not in their right mind), but this worked. Maybe because it was baked? Maybe because this wasn't really sushi? I don't know.

Blue Crab Fajita

We also sampled the Aji Sandwich ($11), by far the most unique sushi menu item we had. It was eggplant tempura (reminiscent of eggplant parmesan) layered with spicy lobster, spicy tuna and salmon sashimi all glazed with miso sauce. YUMMO!!

Aji Sandwich

In his initial invitation, Kevin talked up the slow braised, sake marinated Beef Short Ribs ($11), and I was excited to try them. The verdict was a thumbs up from both my friend and I, but they are a bit heavy so I would not recommend eating them after a whole bunch of other appetizers like we tried to do. I felt bad even leaving one bite of these because they were delicious, but the dish was very rich and I had to put my fork down especially since I knew we weren't done yet.

Beef Short Ribs

We couldn't leave a sushi bar without trying at least one specialty roll, ok make it two. We had the Boerum Hill Roll (price n/a; spicy crunch scallop and cucumber topped with salmon and avocado and served with yuzu aioli) and the Aji King Roll ($15; king crab, avocado and shrimp roll tempura fried and then sliced, topped with spicy tuna or spicy yellowtail and served with the chef's special sauce).

Sushi Rolls

Aji 53 is a solid sushi option among the many restaurants on Smith Street. It's got something for everyone, whether you're a traditional sushi type of diner or someone who's willing to take risks and mix cuisines. The prices were affordable, the service was superb and the restaurant was spacious and eye catching. I would watch out for the bathroom lock, however, as it didn't seem to quite work for me and I ended up holding the door while I was in there. One small glitch, however, I would highly recommend Aji 53!

Aji 53 on Urbanspoon

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