Along the diverse, densely-packed blocks of Fat City you’ll find a creative Japanese chef crafting exquisite compositions.
Fat City has never been the spiffiest part of town, and indeed there’s a move afoot to burnish a new image for this entertainment district in the middle of Metairie. Bars that once operated around the clock are now shackled by last call, and telephone poles are hung with colorful banners, those predictable front-runners of civic improvement campaigns everywhere.
But beyond seedy bars and nightclubs, Fat City has also nurtured a lushly diverse dining scene, thanks to the first-generation immigrants and other entry-level entrepreneurs drawn by its relatively low-rent nature to open small eateries here.
Kanno is in that number, and chef/owner Hidetoshi Suzuki has feathered the little nest he found in a cinderblock strip mall into one of the best, and certainly one of the most unique, Japanese restaurants in the area.
A native of Osaka, Japan, Suzuki was trained as a fine-dining chef back home before learning his sushi skills here in the U.S. That background might explain his penchant for small, composed dishes instead of the standard array of rolls and such.
Sashimi at any sushi bar should always taste fresh. That’s a given, and if it doesn’t, run the other way. But the examples I’ve tried at Kanno are lusciously fresh – the pieces supple, gleaming and vivid.
What really makes this restaurant worth seeking out, however, are dishes like the Dijon tuna, a sculpted tower made from thick chunks of ruby-red raw fish dressed in a mixture of ponzu and mustard seeds. Miso soup is a standard, but here the “special spicy” miso soup is indeed both spicy and special. This brick-colored broth – peppery and awash with minced garlic and soft onion slices -- could be a winter’s cure.
There’s little need for the standard soy sauce dipping tray at Kanno. The fish arrives either elaborately dressed by the chef, as with swordfish sashimi in a tangle of green and white onions, or simply too pristine to muddle, as with pale cuddles of toro brought from the sushi fridge like jewels from the case.
Kanno’s menu runs the gamut, though as it moves toward more conventional sushi bar items the chef’s attention seems to wander. Some of the specialty rolls are nearly the size of burritos and prove about as messy with sauces, cream cheese and fried seafood routinely overwhelming their wrappers.
The tiny confines of Kanno itself put some limitations on the potentially epic meals Suzuki can deliver. At night the jukebox at the adjacent bar is sometimes loud enough to reverb right through the strip mall’s thin wall and across the surface of your sake. But the small scale of this place can also be a blessing, especially with the attention Suzuki and his wife Lin can pay to details. Consider the wasabi, for instance. Kanno really takes some time preparing this staple, and the result is sharp but also deeply flavored and almost creamy. Sometimes fresh wasabi root, that pugnacious rarity, turns up in a dish, as it did to make an erstwhile plain avocado and tofu salad downright exhilarating.
The pace of revitalization of the Fat City district might not be so breathtaking right now. But for lessons in how a deft hand can render a transformation, just belly up to this sushi bar and ask for something new.
Kanno California Style Sushi Bar
3205 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 504-455-5730