By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano
Alexandria | Japanese | $$$$
At the end of your meal, a server might gently press diners to choose a favorite dish for a kitchen poll—and it’s no surprise to hear many of the nearby tables choose the outstanding sashimi course. The $12 upgrade from four-piece to eight-piece sashimi is 100% worth it and might include local fish joined by Santa Barbara uni, barracuda, shrimp, sea bass, mackerel and Japanese yellowtail, along with a few accompaniments like ponzu jelly, lime and edible flowers. A recent visit to this tiny restaurant, which serves an outstanding yuzu-scented whiskey highball, started with fried artichoke filled with summer-truffle-laced tuna tartare, which was awkward to eat but worth the juggle of trying to scoop soft tartare onto smallish, rigid artichoke leaves.
The pristine sashimi came next, followed by a rich course of New Zealand lamb chops accented by a foie gras miso sauce and disks of silky eggplant. Next up, a still-bubbling bowl of soup arrives filled with fresh udon noodles, sea bass, egg, burdock root and matsutake mushrooms from Maine. That last ingredient is considered to be the truffle of Japan, according to the friendly server who gently teased the table about how quickly we gobbled up our dinner. Perhaps we were rushing toward dessert, a fun twist on an ice cream sandwich made with fig-sesame-miso ice cream encased by melty rice crackers shaped like a hollow burger bun. It turns out to be in a tight race with the sashimi for the top spot. // 1209 King St., Alexandria