Remember MF Buckhead? If you never had the opportunity to dine there, first you should cry, then head over to Umi. Chef Fuyuhiko Ito, formerly the Kinjo brothers’ sushi chef at MF Buckhead, once again displays his prowess and precision at his very own sushi spot in Buckhead.
Umi has been on my short list for a while, so I was thrilled when LC and I attended an event recently at the St. Regis and found ourselves literally in front of the restaurant’s door afterward. Although it was a little early, Umi was fully booked, so we snagged a table in the bar area.
Just the day before, an acquaintance mentioned how much she loves Umi’s avocado salad, so that’s where we started. Half of a perfectly ripe avocado simply drizzled with wasabi vinaigrette and served with tiny silver spoons. A plate of thinly sliced, sublime yellowtail swimming in ponzu sauce and garnished with cilantro and fresh jalapeno displayed Ito’s restraint.
Crispy tofu always sounds so delicious, however I often find myself disappointed when the cubes are in fact, not crispy. That was the case with Umi’s agedashi tofu. Cubes of fried tofu rested in a Tokyo-style dashi broth, garnished with grated daikon, ginger, and scallion. The flavor and aroma were pleasing, however, fried things in broth become soggy.
One of the things that made MF Buckhead so special was its robata grill, which utilized very hot binchotan coals in the Hokkaido tradition. At Umi, they grill toban-yaki style, on a heated ceramic platter over a gas fire. We tried their lobster toban-yaki that is first flash fried in a light tempura batter, then chopped and finished on a mini ceramic grill at your table. Although delicious, I think it would be even better without the tempura batter that added unnecessary fat, but not flavor.
Our final savory dish was the eel box from the sushi roll menu. Rather than being wrapped with seaweed, the ingredients are pressed in a box with sticky rice. Eel and avocado are drizzled with sweet eel sauce.
Most Americans (not me!) find true Asian sweets somewhat unappealing; sweetened red bean paste, green tea, and unusual textures like gelatinous rice cakes make them more foreign than their savory counterparts. At Umi, chef Ito’s wife Lisa creates whimsical desserts that transform these ingredients. We would have ordered the green tea souffle but there is a 25 minute preparation time, so we chose the chocolate kyu instead, a chocolate sphere filled with red bean pastry cream, whisky infused mascarpone cream, and fresh berries. It was served with a wooden mallet to break the sphere containing the goodies.
Although we enjoyed our dinner, on my next visit I’ll be sure to sit at the sushi bar where guests can request omakase prepared by chef Ito, just like my best meals at MF Buckhead.
3050 Peachtree Road NW 404-841-0040