Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:
Please work on your execution: Set high standards, train your cooks well, and if you don’t yet trust them to execute the food as well as you do, don’t leave the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many good restaurants have served me limp salad greens, pan-fried fish without crisp skin, steaks without sear and seasoning that is all over the place.
Here’s why I think Naito exemplifies this quality:
Naito has taken the long, slow path to sushi supremacy in this town. Without ever alienating his bread-and-butter crowd who come to Tomo Japanese Restaurant for California rolls and lunch bentos, he began proposing more and more special appetizers and unusual kinds of fish flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. But what has been most intriguing is how the small things keep getting better — the sushi rice slightly warmer than the fish, seasoned with a gentle sweet/sour interplay of sugar and vinegar, and pressed into a firm ball that falls into individual grains in your mouth. The cuts of fish became more precise, each a lush mouthful and no more or less. Meanwhile, the appetizer specials began to take over the dinner menu, and now when you visit you find so many old friends you have to try again. The Tomo uni — a lobe of creamy sea urchin wrapped in a shiso leaf and fried just until its sheath of batter turns crunchy — arrives in a puddle of bright, deeply flavored salsa. It is a perpetual joy, as is this restaurant.
(Note: All Atlanta sushi-heads are waiting for Naito’s imminent move to a larger space in Buckhead.)