Since our unfortunate sushi experience a few weeks back, John and I have been aching for a few good rolls. Although we’ve frequented Ninja hundreds of times before, Chiba had just opened right around the corner and we thought we’d give the new guy on the block a try. Have I mentioned how much I love my neighborhood?
We arrived hungry when they opened at 4PM, hoping to catch what was left of daylight, essential for good food porn. With only a few other patrons in the clean, modern dining room, the servers were extra-attentive and ready to take our order almost as soon as we sat down. There were many items we wanted to try, but we narrowed down our selection (as much as we could stand), ordered and set ourselves to wait while sipping a couple of iced green teas.
The first dish to arrive was the Crawfish Tempura served tossed with a pile of arugula, wasabi aioli and citrus mayonnaise. After gobbling a few bites, I began to realize that the combined flavor of the crispy fried crawfish and the orange/mandarin mayo reminded me of something very familiar and John and I looked at each other quizzically until he suddenly burst out “It’s Fruit Loops!” It’s strange what memories your taste buds can evoke.
We giggled like kids as our next plate arrived, the Pork Belly Steamed Buns with a Japanese slaw and pickled onions. The buns were sweet, fluffy pillows of yum filled with thick, delectable, fatty slices of pork belly that were just delightful, but I wouldn’t necessarily call a few yellow leaves of head lettuce and some carrot threads a “Japanese slaw.” Workin’ out the kinks still? Probably. I enjoyed these much more than John claimed to, but I didn’t see him slow down at all when he polished his off in two large bites.
Next came what we had been pining for, our rolls. We got a Crunchy Spicy Salmon, Rock Shrimp Avocado and one of their specialties, the Gulf Coast Roll. The first two were our “safe” choices while the last was a risk and I am pleased to say, they were all delicious. In fact, I think I enjoyed the specialty one the most! Crispy fried snapper, spicy crab, jalapeno and cilantro were rolled up on the inside with layers of raw snapper on the outside dressed with lime, ponzu and bright, orange-red tobiko.
We finished the whole lovely dinner off with a light dessert of Green Tea Mochi sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. In all honesty, I think if they lowered their specialty roll prices just a tad, Chiba might just give Ninja a run for their money.