Thursday, June 22, 2017

Joyful Japanese Dining at Nakato Atlanta



Last week I had the opportunity to attend a food blogger dinner at Nakato Japanese restaurant in Atlanta. While I had been to Nakato a few years ago, this was the first time I had the pleasure of dining in a "tatami" room {traditional tea room}. What a sweet and special experience. The food and service was stellar.
Our host was general manager Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara, who runs the restaurant that was founded in 1972 by her grandmother, Tetsuko Nakato. If you can believe this, Tetsuko took on this grand adventure in the restaurant business at the age of 65! That's pretty amazing for someone who had only recently come to America. What a role model!

Sachi with a portrait of her grandmother, Tetsuko


While many diners are familiar with the main dining room of Nakato and the sushi bar, the tatami rooms are a traditional Japanese dining experience known mostly to Japanese businessmen. Upon our arrival, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering our tatami room and make ourselves comfortable by sitting on floor pillows. I truly felt like I was shedding the weary layers of the world here. Ushered into this peaceful sanctuary, I could quickly let go of the busyness of my day.
Sachi started our evening by giving us a little history of the restaurant and the Executive Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo, who is from Okinawa. Nakato has been family-owned and operated for almost half a century and takes pride in preserving the cultural traditions of Japanese cuisine. They even offer tea ceremony classes and flower arranging classes.

Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara
 

Our Japanese "immersion" dinner started off with a bang, with this Shiso Shochu aperitif. I have tasted Shiso before in sushi rolls and I really enjoy the flavor of this Asian plant. Part of the mint family, it is juiced here and blended with bayberry and potato vodka for a really refreshing start.
Oh, and yes that's gold leaf. A touch of beauty.

Shiso Shochu

We also enjoyed a sample of traditional Sapporo beer and found out that in Japanese culture it's bad luck to pour alcoholic beverages for yourself {I guess unless you are drinking alone....LOL}.
Sachi did us the honor and poured for us in lovely blue glasses. Sapporo is the oldest brand beer in Japan.


Our dinner was a multi-course delight and I found myself getting excited every time a new course was presented. I tried a few things that I've never had before and was happy to be in the capable hands of Chef Kinjo for this amazing tasting menu.
Chef Kinjo crafts dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. How about this one? Our starter was a King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar. Simple and so refreshing with bursts of citrus.

King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar

Next up, was a unique "5 point" appetizer plate, with Miso Grilled Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, Slow Cooked "Tsubugai" Sea Whelk, Fried "Kawaebi" River Shrimp; and "Sora Mame" Broad Bean. Have you ever eaten a sea whelk? Nope, not me. You give it a little twist to coax it out of the shell. It tastes of the sea to me. Slightly chewy and mild. Really not a pretty little guy, but tasty!
It's good to try new things people, I promise!

Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, and Sea Whelk
Fried River Shrimp, Broad Bean

Moving on, the freshest fish literally jumped off the plate and into my mouth. Our sashimi plate consisted of "Madai" Japanese Snapper, "Toro" Marbled Tuna, and "Isaki" Grunt fish.
What a treat served in a beautiful presentation over ice! If Nakato has one thing down, it is the feeling you get that Chef Kinjo has spent time thoughtfully thinking about his diners and these dishes. 
I know I felt the his care and detailed attention with each course. 
Every consumer wants to feel this way.

Sashimi Plate

So, when I saw the next course listed on our menu, I had to smile to myself. I have had the traditional savory custard "Chawanmushi" a few times before. It is savory, pure comfort food, and umami in a bowl. This was probably my favorite highlight of the night. I love the silky texture and all the flavors and textures that whirl together here. Heaven.

Chawanmushi

Our family-style shared plates included assorted Tempura, Miso Glazed Eggplant, and "Yakitori" Chicken Skewers with Sea Salt and Teriyaki Glaze. All delicious and that eggplant was on point. If you aren't a huge eggplant fan {like my husband}, this dish might just change your opinion. The creamy eggplant and the miso together are a perfect marriage and so succulent.
P. S. - I don't know if you've noticed the lovely serving pieces, bowls, and plates here, but they only add to the charm of Nakato. Sachi travels to Japan yearly to bring back these treasures, designed to reflect the seasons.

Tempura with green tea salt

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Yakitori Skewers
What is a joyful Japanese dinner without some delicious sushi? Nakato did not let us down and continued to impress with some gorgeous and super fresh plattters of sushi rolls, along with a Short Neck Clam Miso Soup. Here's a fun fact....Sachi told us that sushi originated as a "gambling food", with the rice rolls wrapped in seaweed so your hands wouldn't get sticky.
If you head over for sushi, I would suggest the "Omakase" Sashimi platter, where you get the chef's choice of the day's freshest ingredients.


You know I love a good creamy dessert and our Green Tea Panna Cotta totally hit the spot at the end of our evening {does it have to end??? cue serious whining}. It was light and I loved the addition of the red bean paste. Although Sachi mentioned that not a lot of Americans have an affinity for the red bean, I beg to differ. One of my favs. Oh and that brown sugar syrup? The perfect touch.

Green Tea Panna Cotta with Red Bean and Brown Sugar Syrup
Ok, now you want to know how to get your own dining experience at Nakato, right? Here's the scoop. First off, if you live OTP {outside the perimeter in Atlanta} - GO INSIDE! You won't be sorry you made the trip and honestly you just won't find this type of place anywhere else. If you live ITP {inside the perimeter}....you are just a lucky dog and I'm jealous.
At Nakato, there are four unique dining options:

  • Washoku/Main Dining Room: European-style dining with customary Japanese cuisine.
  • Sushi Bar: You can watch the sushi chefs working their magic on fish flown straight in from Japan's Tsukiji Fish Market. "Omakase" is available here, where you leave it to the chef to surprise you. 

Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser
  • Teppanyaki/Hibachi: Private chef cooks on the iron griddle for small groups. Come be entertained!
Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser

  • Tatami Rooms: A rare find in the United States....enjoy an intimate, multi-course dinner or order from the Sushi or Washoku menus. $15 per person for seating {be sure to call ahead to reserve your private room}. Come bring your family, a group of friends or co-workers and let Chef Kinjo spoil you for the evening.

   
A big thank you to Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara and Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo for hosting our hungry group and giving us an experience of a lifetime. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!
Wow, what a memorable night at Nakato! 
I will be thinking about the ambiance and those incredible flavors for some time. And I can't wait to bring my husband back...he loves Japanese food too.
Thank you to Debbie Rosen of The Rosen Group Atlanta and Melissa Pelkey Hass of The Front Porch Gourmet for coordinating such a fun evening.

Nakato Japanese Restaurant
1776 Cheshire Bridge Road, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30324
p 404.873.6582 | f 404.874.7897


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Mon - Thurs, 5:30 - 10:00
Fri - Sat, 5:30 - 11:00
Sun, 5:00 - 10:00


Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara



2 comments:

  1. Wow what a great experience and a great review. On the tea room seating does the $15 go towards you meal or selections?

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for your kind words. It was such a wonderful experience....I look forward visiting again very soon. The $15 seating charge is separate, so it does not go towards your meal. But don't let that stop you....it will be worth it!

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