10 August 2010

The Grub: Aoi Japanese Cuisine and Sushi

Anyone who knows me knows that sushi is my absolute favorite food.  "If you were given a choice between filet mignon and sushi-- which would you choose?"  Sushi... every. single. time.  Among some of my favorite places in Cincinnati are Dancing Wasabi in Mt. Lookout Square (partially for the sushi and partially for my short stint working there in their opening months), Maki Express in Clifton, and Green Papaya in Oakley/Hyde Park (no website for them, but Metromix did a cheap eats feature). 

Saturday night I ventured to the other side of the river to check out Aoi Japanese Cuisine and Sushi on the Levee.  First impression:  very nice place.  The decor was simple and elegant with an oriental touch-- nothing cheesy which I appreciated-- I'm not so much a fan of the waving cats.  Since our party was planned to be rather large (8-12) we were led to a private room complete with french doors if we were wanting a little privacy.  My good friend Katie was the one who suggested this restaurant choice.  She said it was her favorite, and while being fairly new to sushi, she'll try anything and frequents Dancing Wasabi so I knew I could trust her.

Right away I wanted to start with a seaweed salad- a staple for me whenever I try a new sushi restaurant.  I have ordered seaweed salads everywhere from Mexican resorts to Kroger and never run into one I didn't like.  I've had them with radish, cucumber, crab, squid, you name it-- but this was the first time my seaweed salad was served relatively plain.  I was a little disappointed that there was no accompaniment to my greens, and whatever sauce they used was applied sparingly.  It was fine, but I would opt for the house ginger salad next time.

For my meal I ordered red snapper sashimi, king crab sashimi, a rainbow roll, and a spicy seafood roll.  I added tempura flakes to the rolls because I really like a little crunch, but the menu only offered tempura battered rolls for that- not my cup of tea.  A lot of sushi places do not allow changes so I was pleased when few of the other ladies I was with had special requests and our server told us it wouldn't be a problem.  Definite plus. 

Our food-- both from the kitchen and the sushi bar all came together, and very quickly so everyone was able to start right away.. I really hate it when everything comes out at different times-- it makes me think "c'mon place, get it together"

My sushi was quite good.  I am no stranger to the rainbow roll, although it isn't something I usually order, I chose it because I wanted a good variety of fish and every other roll was too simple for what I was looking for.  Usually I don't go for it because I like crunch and spice when I get sushi-- it lacks both.  Having added the tempura flakes though, it covered one of my criteria so I was satisfied.  The spicy seafood roll was the roll to be though.  It was delicious.  Cooked seafood mixture, Japanese mayo (that spicy orange stuff), a few classics..I can't remember exactly but I think cucumber and avocado, then the flakes... pretty good.

Overall I would say I enjoyed my meal, but I really had to search the menu for what I wanted.  The rolls were a little too basic in my opinion.  They were priced ok at $7 for the rainbow and $9 for the seafood, but I would have easily paid extra for a roll with a little more complexity.

I would recommend Aoi to a friend and I will definitely go back knowing that I can customize my meal more than at most places.  Grade? B+.

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