For some inexplicable reason, it took over 20 minutes for my order of Pho to arrive at Pho Central. Now, if I wasn't in a rush, it wouldn't have really mattered. However, I had a scheduled tasting at Japanese Bistro Hatzu a few doors down (organized by Jacqueline). Worst of all, I would be holding everything up! Imagine a group of hungry foodies anxiously waiting for their food! Oh who am I kidding anyways, they were probably more worried about taking photos than actually digging in!
Being almost the last to arrive did have its benefits though. I didn't have to wait long before the food arrived beginning with the Sashimi Nachos featuring salmon and tuna mixed with tomato salsa topped with avocado, jalapeno and tobiko. Despite all the wet ingredients and the time it took for picture-taking, the house-fried nacho chip remained relatively crisp. The whole bite was pretty good with buttery and sweet pieces of fish accented by acidity, spice and sweet balsamic. Next, we had the Daikon Flower stuffed with cream cheese, avocado, cucumber and sashimi. The whole thing was crunchy, but a bit too mild-tasting for my liking. The tart and sweet sauce did add some flavour though.
Moving onto something more usual, we had the Creamy Salmon Carpaccio sporting thin slices of salmon with avocado, creamy basil pesto, balsamic reduction, capers and garlic chips. I found the fish to be buttery and fresh if not a touch mild-tasting. However, the rest of the ingredients helped provide the flavours needed with a creamy herbal finish. I would've liked to see less sauce and more acidity though. The next dish was the Truffle Dancing Shrimp. It was neatly plated featuring grilled shrimp topped with tartar sauce, balsamic reduction, basil pesto, tobiko and truffle oil. I found the shrimp to exhibit a meaty snap while the tobiko offered up a little sweet pop. Like many items with truffle oil, I thought it was a bit overwhelming but the ample balsamic (which seemed to be a theme) did offer up enough acidity and sweetness for balance.
Heading off in another direction, we were presented with the Home-Style Creamy Croquettes made with onion, butter, cream cheese and real crab meat accompanied by tartar sauce. Beyond the crunchy exterior, I found the filling to be rather heavy with the richness of cream cheese and mashed potato. There was a decent amount of inherent flavour even without the tartar sauce (which was creamy and lightly tart). Back to the raw stuff, we had the Volcano Tower with salmon, tuna, cucumber, shiitake, green onion, garlic chips, capers with chili mayo, unagi sauce, house spicy sauce and snapper flower on top. I found the fish to be appealingly fresh-tasting and textured. The gochujang-based sauce was a bit sweet and not too spicy. Although the marinated shiitake underneath didn't really go with the rest of the ingredients, I liked them on their own.
Then a barrage of battera arrived starting with the Salmon Battera featuring negi sockeye salmon inside & salmon, jalapeno, chilli mayo on top. Yes, this was yet another version of the famed salmon oshi from Miku/Minami. This one fared decently with not overly firm rice that was still chewy and only a touch soft. The salmon was buttery while sauced lightly and garnished with a thin slice of jalapeno on top. We also got the Saba Battera sporting ginger inside & torched saba, okra, ponzu sauce on top. This was relatively mild-tasting with a slight tang from the mackerel and some saltiness from the pozu. Our last one was the Unagi Battera with avocado inside &unagi, okra, unagi sauce on top. I found this one to be the most predictable-tasting due to the unagi sauce. Hence, this was sweet while the unagi was buttery soft.
Onto some maki sushi, we were presented with the Belly to Belly Roll with negitoro and avocado inside & aburi salmon toro, tobiko and ponzu sauce on top. I liked the rice-to-ingredient ratio of this roll as well as the buttery fish belly. It didn't have a whole lot of flavour going on as everything was rather subtle. This one needed some soy and wasabi. Next, we had a much larger offering in the Dancing Ocean Roll. It consisted of bouble prawn tempura, avocado, cucumber inside & sockeye salmon, tuna tataki, oroshi ponzu, green onion and sesame on top. This was a mouthful as it was pretty stacked with different ingredients.This one only need a bit of soy as the condiments added a brightness without being overwhelming.
Our last roll was an interesting one in the Orange County Futomaki with freshly sliced orange, cucumber, crab mix, salmon, red pepper, masago inside & seaweed outside. I'm not sure if I've ever seen orange in a roll before. In this case, I found it different and refreshing. Not sure if it had the impact of say, mango, but it wasn't offensive either. For dessert, we had both the Ice Cream Tempura and Crispy Banana Tempura. I wasn't a huge fan of the fried ice cream as the batter was too thick and gummy. However, the banana was fine though being crispy and sweet. This pretty much summed up my experience at this tasting. Most items were pretty good except for a few.
*All food and gratuities were complimentary*
- Carefully constructed sushi
- Some interesting items with different flavour combo
- Menu a bit too diverse IMO
- Some flavours were out there and are highly subjective