Light years ahead of Ru San’s, miles behind the likes of MF Sushibar and Sushi House Hayakawa, the Ra Sushi chain has expanded into the deep south. To establish their foothold, Ra has setup shop in the sparkly glowy 1010 Peachtree Building in Midtown Atlanta. RA’s menu is splattered with words like volcano, Godzilla, and crazy … so if the decor didn’t already tell you … authenticity ain’t the name of the game.
Before we begin, let’s get a few things straight. As I said, any jackass walking in here who expects an “authentic” experience should have their head examined. Just because it ain’t hometown Tokyo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy it. But … then again, just because it’s there … doesn’t make it good 😉
It seems that right out of the Bento box, this place is getting some great foot traffic. Whether that is truly attributable to the dearth of nearby options or the quality of food is debatable. I’m gonna throw my weight behind the former, but I’ve been wrong before.
RA seems more concerned with appearance than anything else. The roughly 8,000 square-foot restaurant comes equipped with hanging barrels, a huge pagoda, large pictures of eye candy, and a staff that was almost certainly hired based on appearance and nothing else.
In that spirit, nothing about the atmosphere surprises me, and therefore, I can’t really complain. However, they do have one feature that I totally dig. On the corner of the restaurant that faces Crescent and 11th, you’ll find an open air bar. Though it’s not always exposed, when it is, it’s a fun little place to sit.
The menu is pretty standard for a place like this. Tons of choices, overwhelming in quantity, lead you around and around with a dizzying amount of possibility. At $10/order, I was intrigued by the idea of the lobster spring roll. Unfortunately, the price was justified in quantity and not quality. The lobster, while not imitation, was from the low end of the food chain. The fillings (cream cheese) lacked any real direction and the creamy nature of the spring roll prevented me from finding a flavor profile to attach myself to. It had been processed down and quickly established the competition for RA (that being places like Steel and Nickimoto’s).
The four reasonably sized rolls were plated like Lincoln Logs and sat in a sea of mango sweet sauce. Try it if you want or skip it if it doesn’t catch your fancy. The dish is just there. For all you haters – we know that cream cheese isn’t Japanese, if you don’t want it in your Japanese food – DON’T ORDER IT. I’d never put this stuff in my mouth at a restaurant that approaches authentic, but this ain’t one of them (for that matter – they don’t offer it anyway). Okay, enough references to authenticity … I think I’ve said my piece on that.
We also sampled a “crispy” spicy tuna. The spicy tuna was of the Huy Fung Sriracha variety. I love me some Sriracha sauce, but I think the reliance on it by these “conveyor belt sushi spots” to be a bit excessive. Served over a flash fried “rice glob,” it tasted as you might expect. The fish wasn’t A-grade, and there ya have it.
The sushi (nigiri/sashimi/whatever), doesn’t move me. The hamachi (yellowtail), sweet shrimp (ama ebi), and saba (mackerel) all maintained a reasonably fishy taste. Though not particularly fresh, it all went down without a fight. The tomago (sweet egg) really didn’t show strong either. However, the sugary flavor was there … as you’d expect. Meanwhile, the rolls here are almost universally covered in sauce and come with ingredients that usually aren’t, for good reason, found in sushi. Kiwi, mango, artichokes, and the like are all there. Too much going on and not enough substance. Bites of several rolls that I tried were cream filled, crunchy, and sweet.
As one might expect from a place like this, a number of the rolls are prepared early in the day. While I want to fault them for that, this is the case at any restaurant like this. There is no way to kick out this much sushi in a short time without early morning prep.
The waitresses here (sorry ladies – I haven’t seen a waiter on staff) are all very bubbly and seem to have little to no real training. Meanwhile, the chefs are too busy cranking out crazy contraptions. Conversation at the sushi bar is non-existent across the refrigerator case.
I doubt I’ll ever return here on my own. Scratch that – I know I’ll never go back on my own. I’m all for “creative” sushi; however, I have yet to see a place that truly captures my imagination. RA Sushi is really shooting for the Steel’s and Nickimoto’s of the world. I put them more on par with Steel (and that’s just ahead of Nickimoto’s). For now, I’ll continue to shell out the bigger bucks to dine at MF Sushibar where the sashimi is more my speed and the “creative rolls” are better. The style of RA is a bit over the top; but, I won’t slam someone for enjoying the atmosphere. However, I won’t crush on them either.