Stuffed to the Gills
The problem with sushi is – well, the main problem is that it’s expensive, but a related problem is that it’s hard to know how much to order.
It’s not like meat-and-three, where the decision is made for you. Raw fish isn’t very filling, so you need a lot, right? Au contraire, as Chow, Baby learned at last week’s soft opening of Piranha Killer Sushi’s new hip, cool, happening downtown location (335 W. 3rd St.): Five appetizers, nine two-bites-each pieces of sashimi, four huge Piranha signature rolls, plus an entrée are way too much for two people. But we managed, we managed.
Even on a Monday night, even though it wasn’t officially open yet (it is now), Piranha was jam-packed. Mainly, of course, because it’s arguably the best trendy sushi in town, but also because, out of all the vacant restaurants downtown, owners/chefs Kenzo Tran and Tommy Le moved into the teeniest. The former Zolon space is now even more intimate, thanks to the new center stage five-chef sushi bar that crams diners into banquettes and leaves one-tray-wide aisles for the servers, who bustle to the beat of the nondescript-hip soundtrack. It’s vibrant! And stunning! In shades of orange sherbet, seafoam, and bamboo, it’s less Ikea-looking than the Arlington place and very, very now. No surprise that hipsters outnumbered serious eaters by three to one, by Chow, Baby’s count (who counts itself in both categories, natch).
Pretty much the same menu as Arlington, too. (And the same prices; Chow, Baby’s 19-course dinner for two totaled about a C-note, including a fancy martini.) (Oh, OK, two fancy martinis. Chow, Baby wasn’t driving.) That means the same astoundingly creative combination of flavors, like the new green roll ($9.95): tempura shrimp and white tuna topped with, whoa, sliced kiwi, the ideal sweet-tart balance for the layer of spicy tomato salad. Everything from the sushi bar was delicious and gorgeous (probably because most of it was prepared by chefthrob Ian and delivered by serverthrob Cheryl); if there was one close miss, it was the back kitchen’s humdrum ginger beef ($16.95), served with too-mild sweet potato and asparagus tempura. No surprise that it was boring compared with the overstimulating thumpa-wumpa of the front. The newest Piranha is a great show and sure to sell out fast – make your reservations now, or be prepared to wait in line forever.
Rice Rice Baby
Chow, Baby never would have thought that something described as “sweetie sticky black rice” ($2.95) would turn out to be the greatest dessert ever in the history of the world, but there you have it. And this sweet pudding of soft, nutty, black rice and coconut milk is just one of half a dozen swoon-inducing desserts at the pretty and pleasant Thai House (3701 S. Cooper #131, Arlington), whose menu otherwise ranges from OK to very good. In the latter category: Thai dumplings ($4.95 for six), sprinkled with fried-garlic crumbles; rich, creamy curries (most $8.95); and the ever-popular larb ($7.95), a salad of ground beef (or pork or chicken) mixed with onions and ground rice and a wake-up dressing of lime juice, chili, and mint. Adequate: cilantro-light spring rolls ($5.95 for four) and the reviewer’s obligatory test dish, pad thai ($7.95), notable mostly for being large enough for two meals. Perfect: Oh, that addictive black-rice pudding.
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