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Sushi Huku, Sandy Springs

Feature by Gene Lee

Feature by Gene Lee

Neighboring diners will go green with envy when your food arrives. A look on their faces will say: “What in the world is that beautiful dish?”

“Oshizushi!” relays Sushi Huku’s blithe band of sushi chefs to inquisitive diners.

Sushi Huku offers two versions of oshizushi, which literally translates to “pressed box” sushi, in reference to the preparation method. Chefs use an oshizushi-hako mold — rectangular wooden but nowadays plastic — for forming.

It is “one of the oldest forms of sushi,” Huku head chef Jerome Oh said. The process, which originated in Osaka, Japan, involves delicately layering ingredients in the hako mold and firmly pressing down on its lid, with a few 180-degree rotations in between to ensure an evenly formed rectangular sushi cake. The cake is then removed and sliced into smaller rectangular bites resembling finger sandwiches that you might nosh on during afternoon tea.

The Kondo box: a version of pressed sushi (all photos and video by Gene Lee)

The Kondo box: a version of pressed sushi (all photos by Gene Lee)

“Back in the old days of Japan, people used to press rice with mackerel and add vinegar to preserve the fish. They would then wrap the oshizushi in banana leaves and carry it around with them to eat later on in the day,” Oh said.

The traditional version, called battera ($14.95), features slivers of this pickled mackerel, called shimi saba, which is simple in appearance and subdued in flavor. The “Kondo box” ($14.95), a vibrant version named after its inventor and former Huku chef Matsuo Kondo, entices those who prefer a little fusion punch to their sushi.

I find both oshizushi styles a feast for the eyes and mouth, and a showcase for the sushi restaurant’s adherence to ingredient quality and tradition that keep bringing me back.

Chef Oh lays ingredients in the hako (mold)

Chef Oh lays ingredients in the hako (mold)

Oh demonstrates how to make traditional battera by layering ingredients topside first in the hako. He starts with the shimi saba, followed by a blanket of sushi rice, a minced blend of pickled ginger and minty shiso (perilla leaf) and then a final layer of rice.

After a few cycles of pressing and forming the battera, Oh flips the hako upside down and gently eases the oshizushi out of the box. He applies a finishing touch by laying a thin, emerald sheet of rehydrated kelp on top and then cuts and plates the oshizushi. If you like deep, oily flavors associated with mackerel cut by a touch of vinegar, you will enjoy this nod to a traditional form of sushi.

Battera: the traditional molded sushi from Osaka that contains pickled makerel

Battera: the traditional molded sushi from Osaka that contains pickled makerel

The Kondo box sits on the opposite end of the oshizushi taste spectrum. First, a rainbow of tuna, yellowtail, shrimp and salmon go in the box. Then rice, orange pellets of masago (smelt roe), garlic wasabi mayonnaise, bits of crunchy tenkasu (fried tempura batter), avocado and more rice, all followed in that order again. Oh presses and forms the oshizushi, saying, “You don’t want to press down too hard because obviously the sushi rice has to have its individual texture.”

Oh plates the Kondo box with intertwined lines of garlic wasabi mayonnaise and spicy sriracha sauce (for swabbing) on the dish’s outer edge. He then tops each individual serving of oshizushi with a dab of sriracha and green molecules of wasabi tobiko (flying fish eggs), purposely laid on crimson slabs of tuna for color contrast. This version has bolder flavors than the battera. And the soft fish and rice, contrasted against crunchy tenkasu and poppy fish eggs, add an enjoyable textural dimension.

If you want to experience the old and new Japan, try both styles of oshizushi. These Japanese finger sandwiches also go well with hot ocha (tea) if you happen to find yourself there in the afternoon.

SUSHI HUKU
6300 Powers Ferry Road, No. 800, Atlanta. 770-956-9559
Food: traditional Japanese sushi restaurant
Service: excellent; private tatami rooms can be reserved upon request
Vegetarian selections: vegetable rolls and sushi, vegetable tempura, pickle appetizers and vegetarian-friendly noodles
Price range: $$
Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa, American Express
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 5:30 -10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; closed Sundays
Children: yes
Parking: in lot
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: moderate
Patio: no
Takeout: yes

22 comments Add your comment

jimmy

September 29th, 2011
8:46 am

I hope people appreciate the work put into this, and this introduces more people to Sushi Huku. Now I want to go tomorrow…

Victor

September 29th, 2011
9:08 am

The battera sushi which has Portuguese roots is not why you go to Sushi Huku. Jeh has a great omakase menu that changes constantly.

JP

September 29th, 2011
9:21 am

Oh wow, sushi is actually Portuguese? Thanks Victor!
The name “battera” has Portuguese origins, whether the dish is or not is cloudy…

Gary

September 29th, 2011
9:25 am

Uh, is this an advertisement or a restaurant review?

Tom

September 29th, 2011
9:27 am

Yeah, do you get free meals for life for doing a review like this. I find it hard to believe this is the top of the sushi tree in Atlanta.

MT

September 29th, 2011
9:28 am

God I miss Soto. Try and see him everytime I am in New York. His food is brilliant.

Julie

September 29th, 2011
9:28 am

Try Bishoku on Roswell Rd. Really good Sushi.

John Kessler

September 29th, 2011
10:12 am

Tom – This is not a review, but rather a focus on a specific dish. As someone who used to live near Osaka, where pressed sushi originated and is still quite popular, I’m glad Gene chose this topic.

kristen

September 29th, 2011
10:26 am

MT, I’m going to NYC in December. Would you mind sharing where Soto’s hanging out these days?

Gene Lee

September 29th, 2011
10:45 am

Gary/Tom – Ditto what Kessler said, and no, I don’t ever get free meals and certainly not for life. Otherwise, like @Victor said, the omakase here is indeed great, and I have no hesitations on putting this in the top five sushi restaurants (alongside Tomo, Taka, MF B’Head, Hayakawa) in metro Atlanta. (And to me, it’s probably the best bang for the buck out of the five.)

But I too miss Soto.

soojin

September 29th, 2011
10:49 am

Looks delish

KEAD

September 29th, 2011
6:21 pm

I love Sushi Huku, and have enjoyed it for over half a decade, but the last three times I’ve visited (all at lunch), I felt as if the quality had deteriorated a bit. I really hate saying this because I love the traditional atmosphere, but every time, the fish disappointed. It didn’t taste fresh, and on my most recent visit, I was actually worried about eating it because it tasted like it had gone off. I will return in the future, but perhaps I will go at dinner time instead. Maybe I’ll have better luck. The presentation is still lovely.

Christina

September 29th, 2011
7:21 pm

That. Looks. Amazing.

Jeff

September 29th, 2011
7:29 pm

Years ago Sushi Huku was excellent — was the only place in town that served Oden so I always looked forward to cold weather and Oden season. It changed hands and lost some of its “authenticness” although the new owner did seems to be trying hard. Maybe I should give it another shot.

jey

September 29th, 2011
11:50 pm

hello this is jey the head chef from sushi huku and i am very honored to be published in this sight! I would like to personally thank everyone for their comments (even the bad ones). I will use your comments to better myself as a chef and hopefully prove that atlanta can create some of the best sushi in the states. this has been an incredible learning experience while also very humbling. I apologize for any short comings, and would like to personally promise to all my patrons this: i will further dedicate my life to providing you with the sushi you deserve and seek.
with much love for atlanta, Jey Oh

brian

September 30th, 2011
9:29 am

Have to disagree emphatically about the freshness of fish at Huku. I go two to three times a month for lunch. To me its as good as Tomo or Taka and much better than Hayakawa (MF’s pricing has run me out of going there anymore). While basic, the salmon is always melt in your mouth good here. To me, just trying the run of the mill salmon tells you how fresh a place’s sushi is – and I haven’t had much better than here (and I’ve been to Tsukiji at 5am)… Now I would say about a year ago there was a bit of a lull in freshness/quality, I think that was the first ownership change, but since Jey took over the quality has zoomed back up.

brian

September 30th, 2011
9:31 am

Let me clarify, the sushi here isn’t basic, but my ‘test’ of freshness of a sushi restaurants fish is basic by assessing the salmon…

RK

September 30th, 2011
3:24 pm

I don’t know what it was, but the spicy tuna was great last night — as was the red snapper, even without the shiso :)

goose

September 30th, 2011
5:32 pm

FYI its “SHIME” saba not “SHIMI”. Shimi means stain in japanese while shime is to tighten.

rebelliousrose

September 30th, 2011
6:38 pm

I love Sushi Huku. Thanks for reminding me I haven’t been in a while!

BNM

October 5th, 2011
3:28 pm

My husband and I have been going to Sushi Huku for a couple years now we regulars and the Kondo box is ordered pretty much weekly in our house… You can’t go wrong with anything they serve here fish is always fresh!

Luv

October 5th, 2011
3:36 pm

Sushi Huku has the best sushi in Atlanta and I highly recommend everyone visiting to try it out! I’m a patron for life and tell everyone who is interested in enjoying authentic Sushi to visit Sushi Huku!