What’s your go-to sushi bar in New Orleans? It might be that first place where you tried a California roll way back when, or it could be the spot that always has something different on the specials board to try. Maybe it’s the sushi bar that just happens to be closest to your house, or it’s one across town where you’ve built a rapport with a particular chef.
Whatever seals the deal for you, though, sushi lovers in New Orleans tend to be highly loyal to their favorite Japanese restaurant.
Get a few with opposing opinions together, and it’s fish on as the partisan claims and counter claims fly about what makes one the best. Behind it all, of course, is an obsession with a restaurant niche that is everywhere around New Orleans but still can feel a bit mysterious and exotic. Everyone wants an inside track
Well, I had my own pecking order for New Orleans sushi bars, but I’ve been reassessing. Some well-known restaurants closed – namely Horinoya and Kyoto – and new players have stepped up. I felt it only right and timely to hit the New Orleans sushi circuit anew. Plus, it’s been pretty hot out there and good sushi can take the edge off.
The search led me from strip malls to stand alone show pieces and even to a pop-up omakase, the sushi version of a chef’s tasting menu, served up at a downtown nightclub.
I found freewheeling Hong Kong style sushi at a Marrero spot called Daiwa, home of the Hello Kitty karaoke room, and I found a BYOB option at Good Time Sushi, a joint the size of bento box in Gentilly. I visited a sushi bar synched to the Oak Street nightlife at Chiba, where strawberries and blueberries make cameos in some sushi rolls, and I took apart a gorgeous bowl of mixed chirashi sushi at Origami on Freret Street.
For a low-key, quick-hit sushi fix, I found Asuka, a hole in the wall next to the dilapidated landmark of the old daiquiri island Jeep on Earhart Boulevard. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I puzzled over rolls dusted with graham cracker crumbs and Doritos at Tsunami, a high style sushi bar in the CBD. At Rock-n-Sake I pondered how sashimi ever got paired with foie gras mousse and vanilla scented fig sauce, and then I marveled over the less dressy rolls served beside it.
In the end, I narrowed my list of all-star sushi bars down to three that stood out for their range, robust specials and consistency. There’s Megumi, on the north shore, then Kanno, in Fat City, the closest thing we have around here to a true chef-led sushi bar; and finally, the top cut for me, Shogun, the area’s oldest sushi bar and still a bustling den of Japanese flavor.
Well, those are my picks anyway, and you know I’m putting it lightly when I say there’s room for debate. People are passionate about restaurants in this town, sushi bars included, and they feel strongly about their favorites. So even when we we're talking about raw fish you know the conversation will get heated.
Details on sushi mentioned above:
Asuka Sushi & Hibachi
7912 Earhart Blvd., New Orleans, 504-862-5555
8312 Oak St., New Orleans, 504-826-9119
5033 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 504-875-4203
Good Time Sushi
5315 Elysian Fields Blvd., New Orleans, 504-265-0721
K & E NOLA (pop-up omakase)
3517 20th St., Metairie, 504-455-5730
7400 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-845-1644; 1211 Village Walk, Covington, 985-893-0406
5130 Freret St., New Orleans, 504-891-3715
2913 Metairie Rd., Metairie, 504-267-9761; 823 Fulton St., 504-581-7253
2325 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, 504-833-7477
601 Poydras St., New Orleans, 504-608-3474