I am about as big of a sushi fan as one can be. I’m usually good for lunch a couple times a week, and no fewer than once a week for dinner. As we all know, there’s a plethora of choices in Jacksonville when it comes to dining out for a raw fish fix, some far better than others. This is evident by the number of spots that have come and gone over the last decade, everywhere from the beaches to downtown. With the abundance of fresh, local seafood we have access to here in Jax, and the vast number of importers working in the area, there’s no excuse for serving anything shy of pristine.
If you’re the type who seeks out the finest product, appreciates unique presentation, and recognizes a chef with a passion for his craft, look no further than Kazu Japanese Restaurant on San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, with a very modern interior design, creative lighting and decoration, and a great staff. The owner, David, is always eager to chat about his newest arrivals of imported seafood, which have recently included wild king salmon, fresh uni (sea urchin), and live scallops still in their shell. Aside from the weekly special arrivals, you can get just about anything you can imagine a sushi menu having to offer, with a massive list of appetizers, soups and salads, sushi and sashimi, and specialty rolls galore.
After a few visits over the last month, each leaving us more impressed than the one before, we recently dined in for an omakase meal, which essentially translates to “chef’s choice.” We enjoy almost everything the ocean has to offer, so this allowed for some creativity from the chef, and a twist on the typical method of dining. Here’s a bit of what Kazu has to offer.
The chef started our meal with an interesting and appropriate first course. He paired raw, sushi-grade sweet shrimp (botanebi) with the fried heads from the same shrimp. The heads were perfectly crispy and meaty, and were sitting in a sweet soy sauce.
The second course, and our favorite of the night, was a brilliant three-way pairing of yellowtail, scallop and uni. Their yellowtail and scallop are both the best I’ve found in town, and the uni was rich and delicate, a perfect complement to the trio. The sweet and spicy sauces that topped the bites added just the right amount of umami and heat. Bravo.
Not only was the third course easy on the eyes and the palate, but I felt it to be something that nearly any sushi lover would enjoy. On the bottom was a very thin crisp of sorts, which was topped with generous layers of avocado, spicy snow crab meat and thin sliced tuna. This was all topped with a sweet glaze, scallion and tobiko.
Next, was a roll that I would call fairly typical or “safe”, but it was executed perfectly. The inside was soft-shell crab and avocado, which was topped with spicy crab and panko. I usually steer clear of tempura rolls due to the heavy layer of batter on the meat, but this was just the opposite–very lightly battered and loaded with rich soft-shell crab meat. Pleasantly surprised.
Our fifth course was a close runner-up for favorite of the night. Its placement in the meal was ideal, something light and refreshing after a couple of heavier courses. The roll was made inside of a sticky summer roll wrap, and stuffed with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado and greens. Gorgeous and simple plating, as well.
The closing to the meal was definitely all the “dessert” we could stomach at that point. It was rich and heavy, enough to remove any worries about leaving the building hungry. The roll was loaded with tuna, avocado and thick slices of eel, all layered and interchanging throughout.
Needless to say, I think pretty highly of what the folks at Kazu have going on, and I’m certain you will, too.