Mar 17, 2010

Yet Another "Best". Best Sushi Roll.

Those of you following along at home may have seen the "best sandwich in the world" and "best desert I've ever eaten" claims in two of my previous postings about our recent vacation to Miami. So this post, entitled "Best Sushi Roll" may have you SOLing (scoffing out loud) over my dramatic antics. Fair enough.

Take it with a grain of salt, for sure, because in this short life of mine, I've eaten at very few high-end sushi restaurants. But if you're fortunate enough to go to Shoji Sushi on South Beach, I doubt very seriously that you'll not fall in love with the... wait, wait, wait. I'm not giving it away just yet.

Shoji was my first dinner choice involving other people on this trip; friends Andrew and Jenny were joining us, fresh off the plane. I didn't want them to secretly blame me for spoiling the night with a bad/expensive dinner choice (something they never would have done but I pressured myself nonetheless - the plight of the food blogger/restaurant reviewer), so I felt like there was a lot riding on this one.

Of the Myles Restaurant Group establishments on South Point, Shoji's dining room is the least impressive. It's dark and, while classy, mostly unremarkable. What's good about that fact is diners are left to focus on each other and their food... their beautiful, fantastic sushi.

Prior to dinner we'd enjoyed some Fanta Naranjas (fill cup with ice, add Goose, a splash of club soda and orange Fanta for the authentic drink or Izze clementine flavored soda for the best fizzy cocktail you've had in a long time) so rather than sake or martinis, we went with Sapporos which did a fine job of accompanying our Japanese fair.

We started our meal at Shoji with an app I discovered while a Miami resident and have never found in the midwest - their simple rock shrimp. There's not a lot to this story; they're just little shrimp, delicately breaded and fried tempura style, then covered in a spicy orange ponzu sauce. Basically, they're the best fried shrimp you will ever consume. I've had the rock shrimp at Nobu and they weren't as good. The tempura wasn't as cripsy, and the ponzu sauce less flavorful. Shoji's rock shrimp taste like sweet, spicy little lumps of perfection. My personal turkish delight.

The shrimp portion would have been perfect for two people, but was a little small for four. So we got a couple miso soups to tide us over until sushi time. I honestly don't have a lot to say about the soup. It was  warm and had a nice, subtle umami flavor. The shiitakes were nice and tender and the scallions were plentiful, adding a nice bite. But that's about it. It was good miso soup.

When ordering sushi with Andrew and Jenny, we always split up the ordering duties, each of us picking out a roll. No repeats. We each have to pick out something different. Per usual, I picked the worst one, but it wasn't actually half bad; the truth, though, is that I can't even tell you what we got, save for one roll... the citrus salmon roll. The best sushi roll I have ever consumed.

The fish in this roll was immaculate. The fresh salmon - not a local ingredient, I realize - was wonderfully firm. Cut perfectly, with no jagged edges, not a grain of rice dislodged, it had an unbelievably pleasing texture. Sometimes raw fish can be a little too warm and, thus, grainy. This salmon's texture made me think I'd never cook the fish again.

Accompanying the salmon and rice was the most tasty of avocados. The kind that tastes like an amalgam of earth, fruit and butter (just go with me on that). Often, avocado in a sushi roll is just a welcome filler. This time it was a key ingredient. A nice richness begging for acid.

There was masago (capelin roe - fish eggs, in other words), kombu, and yuzu chili paste in these rolls, as well, but cutting through it all was the crisp, clean, heavenly citrus - a combination from lemon zest and a  shisu leaf, beautifully displayed beneath the translucent rice paper wrapper. It was such a delicious, surprising flavor profile, our eyes bulged when we each took in our first bite. Quickly, politeness went out the window and we went on the offensive, snatching up the rest of the citrus salmon in the blink of an eye. You'd have thought the rest of the rolls were filled with poison the way they were neglected from then, on.

As quick as the citrus salmon was gone, another platter arrived, with an obligatory accompaniment whose name I don't even care to remember. Of the eight additional pieces, my companions each had one.   I put my athletic eating abilities on display and took the rest down myself. I was happy. We were all thrilled.

We needed dessert, too. And what better way could one possibly follow up the best sushi roll ever but than with the best dessert on earth? Shoji and Nemo are conjoined restaurants and we were fortunate that they also share their donuts! But this time, it was a smaller portion of donuts, accompanied with a wildly fantastic creme brulee. This is a truly great creme brulee, served in a shallow, wide dish maximizing surface area, read: maximizing blow torch exposure. So the caramelized sugar shell on the top of the brulee is maxed out. Simply incredible.

A luscious ginger sorbet was there to cleanse the palette, as they say. I avoided it so as to keep the tasty of sugary, salty donuts present in my senses of taste and smell for the maximum amount of time.

We left Shoji positively intoxicated. Good friends, good conversation, delicious sushi and desserts. My head was spinning with happiness.

As luck would have it, Shoji was the jumping-off point for what turned out to be a night of hilarity, involving the four of us crashing a birthday party at a beachfront hotel for a 45 woman named Lourdes who was unwittingly generous with her Paella, cupcake tower, bar tab and use of her ice sculpture/shot luge. I credit the citrus salmon for setting this all in motion.

Yeah, the combination of great friends and great setting may have helped, but with the four of us, great sushi is a key ingredient. Somehow, I think, if that night had been a hamburger night, things would have turned out much differently. So if you're lucky enough to take a trip to South Beach, yourself, I hope you're also lucky enough to go to Shoji and create some magic of your own. The citrus salmon will send you on your way for sure.

Rating: three napkins

Shoji Sushi on Urbanspoon

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