My, oh my, omakase!

Posted on 11 Sep 2009 at 12:25am
By Arnold Wayne Jones | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Five Sixty debuts a satisfying new sushi chef tasting menu

4 OUT OF 5 STARS OVERALL RATING
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, 300 Reunion Blvd. Open daily for dinner at 5 p.m. 214-741-5560.

There’s nothing that can make a diner feel more important than having executive sushi chef Fuji (and his able Texas-born sous chef) personally prepare elegant little plates, bantering all the while. But this isn’t about appearances — the food is spectacularly prepared.



ROBATA YOU WANT The chef’s tasting menu at Five Sixty can be a surprising adventure in sushi and robata (skewer) dishes.

When Wolfgang Puck opened Five Sixty earlier this year, he knew its location — the revolving dining room atop Reunion Tower — was a selling point, but the food needed to stand on its own. So the demigod of fusion cooking introduced something none of his other Asian-themed restaurants had: A robata bar (open-flame skewer cooking) to complement his sushi.

And the next evolution from that was omakase.

The concept of chef’s tasting menus are commonplace nowadays, but Japanese cooks have long been entrusted with the responsibility of impressing their diners with creative, even flamboyant variations on traditional plates. (Omakase derives from the Japanese for "entrust.") While the style has developed a reputation for extravagant meals bordering on saturnalia, it’s really about showcasing the food.

And Hiroyuki Fujino — Five Sixty’s "Chef Fuji" — does just that.

Omakase dinners can be about the food or the experience; ideally, they should be both. Because the food is prepared in front of you at the bar, you don’t get the benefit of the constantly changing view or the intimacy of a private table. No matter: It allows you to concentrate on the freshness of the ingredients.

You can’t hide a single raw shrimp behind deep-fried batter when it’s the centerpiece of a dish, and chef Fuji doesn’t even try: A touch of sea salt, some ginger to clean the palate and just the sweetness of the shrimp. Simplicity at its deftest.

Our dishes became progressively more complex from there. (You can order 6- or 9-course menus, but you have to decide at the beginning — adding as you go is insulting. I recommend the 9-course for the full experience.) Give Fuji props for tackling black cod with a sesame-miso vinaigrette — a signature dish at Nobu — and then pulling it off with such flourish. The seven-spice chili is a plus, though the cold eggplant detracted from the elegance, but the most prosaic of garnishes — a pickled spear of ginger — wowed us again.

To call the hamachi "seared" is perhaps overstatement; "heat-kissed" may put it closer to the reality. Yellowtail tuna as fresh and excellently dressed as this requires no more.

The tempura vegetables, greaseless and crisp as a newly laundered shirt, were accented by grated daikon radish in the consommé-like sauce with mild Japanese mint. (The tempura on the green tea ice cream dessert was a flaky as a pastry.) The surf-and-turf rolls — lobster and seared N.Y. strip kobe beef, with avocado and more richness — were both balanced and sweet.

Presentation is a definite part of the experience of omakase, and the uniquely-shaped stone dishware and banter with chef Fuji and his sushi sous chef only enhances it. But you can’t be all sizzle and no steak when there’s so little sizzle to begin with. This is culinary indulgence without meaningless fanfare — a true Obama meal for post-partisan America. Oishii! Kanpai!

TASTING NOTES


Five Sixty was recently named one of the "top 50 restaurants with a scenic view" by visitors to Opentable.com.

Sushi Axiom, the Fort Worth-based Japanese fusion restaurant that opened a Dallas location last year along the new Henderson Avenue development, expands to a third location in Burleson’s McAlister Square.

Axiom’s Henderson-area neighbor, Soley! — one of my favorite restaurants of last year — is retooling its menu of Mexi-French cuisine to make it more downturn-friendly. Prices from appetizers to desserts have been trimmed at the cozy and clever fusion bistro.

Eatzi’s recently introduced homemade pizza pies to their take-out menu, and the two I’ve tried (out of four) are certainly worth a bite. They follow the trend of crisp-crust, more square-cut pizzas with gourmet ingredients. The margherita — the traditional basil-mozzarella-tomato combo — was burblingly good, and the "hot copa," loaded with pepperoni and ham as well as cheeses, was heavenly. But heaven is only available from 4 to 9 p.m. on Fridays. Still, a good way to start the weekend.

Abacus, chef Kent Rathbun’s flagship restaurant, has instituted a new five-course Spanish tasting menu for $45, available during the week (Mondays through Thursdays). Selections include a tapas appetizer platter, razor clams and bread pudding. Over at his new Blue Plate Kitchen in Preston Center, Rathbun has introduced a new healthy menu and lunch specials for $10.

Bread Winners Café & Bakery will participate in the sixth annual Cupcakes for a Cause fundraiser. Running Sept. 21–27, the nationwide event has bakeries selling specially-decorated cupcakes with a portion of sales going to CancerCare for Kids, which helps children with cancer.

Dallas entrepreneur David Tiller formally unveiled a clever new concept in self-serve beverages this week. Fruitissimo could be called the next evolution of the Slurpee. The self-cleaning, self-sanitizing machine instantly purees fresh fruit into a custom smoothie. The public can stumble upon the prototype at a 7-Eleven on Northwest Highway.

Chef jW Foster with Pyramid, the restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel, took the top spot last month at the annual Caesar Salad Competition. Also last month, chef Brian Luscher’s gourmet hamburger — on the menu only select days at The Grape on Lower Greenville, was named by Texas Monthly as the best burger in the Lone Star State. I’ve tried it; they got it right.

The harvest tea service begins at the DeGolyer Garden Café inside the Dallas Arboretum on Sept. 21, and runs through Nov. 15.

While Pinkberry is on its way to Dallas, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Café has already opened its doors. The Tulsa-based confectioner’s DFW shop is located in the new retail space that recently opened across from NorthPark Center.

The same development welcomes the new Bailey’s Prime Plus, a 12,000-plus square foot steakhouse that will be the central corridor’s only meat-eater haven. It has already attracted talent from Capitol Grille, Chamberlain’s and Nick & Sam’s.


— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.

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