It's said that Sukiyabashi Jiro -- a small yet revered establishment tucked away in a Tokyo subway -- is considered to be among the best sushi restaurants in the world. Run by 86-year-old shokunin Jiro Ono, a man now considered a national treasure by the Japanese, the restaurant's menu is best served traditional omakase, a chef's tasting that will easily run you a few hundred dollars.
Scott Kennedy and Stephen Chin -- owners of Delray Beach's Union -- are keeping Sukiyabashi Jiro in mind as they open Candyfish Gourmet Sushi, a "gourmet" sushi bar inside their Asian fusion gastro-lounge with a grand opening slated for October 13. Their goal: to offer world-quality sushi, but for a fair price.
"Our aim with Candyfish is to provide the perfect balance between offering items that the traditional sushi fans want, like toro or sea urchin, while also offering items that maybe the less-adventurous can enjoy," Kennedy told Clean Plate Charlie.
To craft such a concept, the team hired master sushi chef "Steve" Zhang, formerly of Nobu Miami, one of chef Nobu Matsuhisa's 20-plus global establishments, considered to be among the best sushi restaurants nationwide.
Inspired by sushi-driven nightclubs like New York City's Koi and Bond St., Las Vegas' Geisha House, and Los Angeles' Katsuya, Kennedy says that, at Candyfish, he'll provide patrons with creative and traditional rolls that surpass dishes three times the price in both
quality and craft.
During a recent interview, Kennedy said he spent the better part of eight months "searching for a sushi chef capable of creating the best sushi in South Florida for the best price." Then he met Zhang -- a quiet, unassuming man who seems completely at ease behind the circular Candyfish counter, perhaps a more fitting place for the 55-year-old cognoscenti of Japanese cuisine than South Beach. And even though the Candyfish roll he has named after him -- the popular Uber Sexy Steve Roll -- would make it appear otherwise, it's hard to imagine his being anything other than steadfastly focused on whatever dish he's creating.
The Candyfish menu includes offbeat house creations like the tuna truffle tarts -- paper-thin slices of sushi-grade tuna sprinkled with sea salt and served on a fresh-baked mini tart finished with black truffle oil and micro greens -- as well as traditional miso soup, specialty sushi rolls, and à la carte sashimi. A stuffed avocado pouchette [pictured above] is a labor of love that takes up to 15 minutes to prepare as Zhang arranges paper-thin slices of avocado to create a delicate "purse" filled with spicy tuna, blue crab, and tempura flakes.
What makes this sushi different, says Kennedy, is the fish: Each piece is sourced from specialty distributors that deliver whole fish Zhang cuts, preps, and wraps himself.
Rolls are priced $11 to $16 with choices like the Honey Walnut Shrimp roll, made with candied walnuts and shrimp tempura, or the Japanese Steakhouse roll, served with slivers of filet mignon, shrimp tempura, and a house-made hibachi-style yum yum sauce.
For vegans, vegetarians, and his raw-fish-fearing mother, Kennedy helped to design rolls that would have the same level of creative innovation as the rest of the menu, such as Julia's Vegetarian Beauty, a mix of asparagus, avocado, cucumber, carrot, green and red peppers, and bok choy topped with Union's own roasted Brussels sprouts.
The Peter Mark, at first glance appears to be nothing more than your average California roll but is actually a foodie's "Russian Roulette," says Kennedy. Best when shared at a table, the lucky one to bite into the single piece stuffed with wasabi gets to chase it with the roll's accompanying sake bomb.
Candyfish will be running a special promotion through October. To participate, click on the VIP List on the Candyfish Facebook page and you will receive a coupon valid any Friday or Saturday after 7 p.m. for a complimentary drink of your choice and half-off any roll (excluding either lobster rolls).
Candyfish officially opens Saturday, October 13. Union and Candyfish are open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to close (2 a.m. on the weekends). Union's daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. features three-for-one specialty cocktails, beer, wine, and liquor. Both restaurants will be open Monday starting the first week of November.
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