At any moment, you feel as if Scheherazade might leap out from behind the rich saffron and amber hued curtains and spin 1,001 stories. With sari-draped tables, a golden sofa and a backlit glass sushi bar, this companion to aria restaurant
in the Fairmont hotel gives off a harem-lounge vibe.
Chef Byung Kyu Park, with a wit as sharp as his gleaming sushi blade, is the king of this culinary harem. His technique is impeccable, and he tastes constantly as if he were looking for poison on the President's Secret Service detail. If you go omakase and put things in his hands, he'll create a balanced progression of tastes that would be at home at Charlie Trotter's. Creamy tuna tartare with crisp chives, crunchy batons of Japanese mountain yam (yamaimo) and caviar is a textural merry-go-round of contrasts, while slices of anago eel marinated in mirin rice wine tastes like a puffed sushi dessert.
If raw fish is not your thing, there are many noodle bowls, flatbreads and small bites available, including peking duck potstickers and lobster avocado spring rolls.
The ample wine, sake and beer lists include Divine Droplets, in which the fermenting rice mash is put into canvas bags and placed in an ice dome; the sake is coaxed only by gravity, dripping out overnight. Pieces of nigiri range from $3-$7, while maki, small bites and noodle bowls range from $5-$17.
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant