Many sushi restaurants are cookie-cutter, offering interchangeable lists of the same sushi and sashimi choices. Perhaps they are differentiated by a selection of specialty rolls but, more often than not, one seems much like the other. This is most certainly not the case with Daiwa Sushi.
Owned by the husband-and-wife team of Ken Wong and Jay Hui, Daiwa got its start in Marrero where it quickly outgrew its original footprint to eventually incorporate four private Karaoke party rooms. A sleeper hit on the Westbank, this year they set their sights on ambitious new location at 4100 Veterans Blvd. and took over the former World of Beer tavern. If Marrero was a hidden gem, this new Veterans store puts them firmly on the map.
“Our aim is to respect the authenticity of Japanese cuisine but use a more modern presentation,” Jay said of her menu. “We use the freshest ingredients. Our dishes well-balanced and not overpowered. And we make many of the components, like eel sauce, in-house.”
Sizing up to their new location came with a huge bonus – their account was substantial enough to order direct from the famous Tsukiji fish market in Japan. This advantage opened up a world of possibilities with sourcing. Selections vary based on availability but recently included Japanese skipjack and amberjack as well as scallops and uni from Hokkaido. “I love introducing new types of fish to our customers,” Jay said. “You can taste the ocean.”
The menu is astonishingly large and diners can easily become overwhelmed. Along with sushi and sashimi there are rice bowls, cone-shaped snackable hand rolls, udon and possibly the city’s largest collection of specialty rolls. An omakase experience at the sushi bar is one way to be guided through. Another is to start with a few appetizers, pick your way through the fish specials, order some traditional items and branch out with some specialty rolls. In any case, multiple visits are necessary to take full sample of what is available.
For appetizers, consider the “King Salmon Tartare,” chopped salmon mixed with smelt roe and scallions and drizzled with champagne sauce, salmon roe and lemon slices. The “Kimchee Octopus Salad” features tender sections of octopus laid atop a bed of peeled cucumber and spiced with a kimchee-based dressing. The “Baked Scallops with Garlic Butter” sauce makes use of delicate needle mushrooms. Move on to unagi and splurge on toro if it is available. The “Toro Tataki,” flash-seared tuna belly that is cold-smoked in a bell jar that arrives at the table, is a memorable dish. But even the fundamentals like Hamachi will be notable for the quality of the sourcing.
The bar menu sets Daiwa apart as well. Thanks to the location’s prior tenant, the space already offered a copiously built-out bar. Jay is building a sake selection to offer sake flights comprised of small batch sakes brewed in different cities across Japan. “Most are from small family businesses,” Jay said. She also offers Japanese spirits – not just the usual whiskey but also Japanese rum, vodka and gin. Also featured are Japanese craft beers like Hiachino. “Instead of every place having the same selection we wanted to offer something unique. This is a Japanese restaurant,” Jay said, “so we want it to offer a complete Japanese experience.”
MEET THE CHEF
Originally from Hong Kong, Ken and Jay became fans of Japanese cuisine thanks in part to its strong representation in this cosmopolitan Chinese city. “Hong Kong is very fast-paced and on-trend,” Jay explained. “and Japan is just a short flight away. My husband worked with a lot of Japanese chefs early in his career which is where he found his inspiration.” The duo opened their Marrero location of Daiwa in 2013 and have been growing ever since.
Daiwa, 4100 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie, 281-4646; L, D Wed.-Mon., closed Tues., daiwasushi.com.
Asuka Sushi is a blink-and-you-miss-it sushi joint on Earhart Blvd. just a block down from Carrollton Avenue in Gert Town. The location is surprising, but so is the food. They make for a great take-out option for those in need of a quick sushi fix or else you can dine in and enjoy both sushi and offerings from the hibachi. It is about as casual as it comes, the ingredients are high quality, and it is a great value to boot.