I’ve never bothered with sushi takeout from a restaurant in Charlotte. It’s just not the type of food I would choose to go bury my face in alone on the couch at home while I descend into the darkness of a Netflix binge.
No — sushi is a social food. It’s an artful arrangement that commands you to slow down (enter: the chopstick struggle). It’s meant to be savored between sips of a drink, between strands of a conversation. So the place you choose to eat should have the vibe you’re looking for.
My go-to sushi spots:
For an intimate vibe: Soul
Soul has mood. It has a low-lit lounge appeal with a conversational buzz, a second-floor seating area facing the skyline and a schizophrenic (yet succulent) blend of tapas selections from spinach and feta Spanakopita to the Hamachi Jalapeno roll. Not to mention a DJ jamming every night of the week if you stick around.
1500-B Central Ave.
For low-key ease: Ru San’s
You don’t come here for mood lighting — the decor is basic but clean. You come here for the social mix of wine sippers and sake bomb chuggers. And the enormous sushi list ranging from the Grinch with tuna, avocado, aioli and crunchy eel sauce, to the Caterpillar Roll with avocado, cream cheese and sweet potato.
2440 Park Road
For casual consistency: Ginbu
Ideal for when you need nothing more than some pillowy rolls of rice, fortune cookies to crack open and big, comfy booths to hunker down in while wrapped in a hoodie. This is my default spot during the week with girlfriends when I crave a dish of seaweed salad plus an Asparagus Roll, minus the desire to put any effort into my appearance.
401 Providence Road
For the out-on-the-town feel: The Cowfish
Sure, there was that little health scare, but this spot is great for dates. The bar boasts a rather large aquarium to gaze upon while you order a drink, browse the menu and wait for a table (because you generally have to wait for a table). The chatter and crush of the crowd (particularly on weekends) makes you feel like you’ve landed in the heart of the city.
4310 Sharon Road
For the gluttonous glory: Yama Asian Fusion
As in, if you order enough rolls from the menu, your server brings them out in a boat. This gives you purpose. I went here religiously with friends in high school and during college breaks. I think we got the boat twice.
720 Governor Morrison St., #130
For the class: Baku
Everything about Baku feels fancy. From the cushions on the patio furniture, to the absence of prices on the online menu, to the eclectic lighting, wall-writings and paintings inside. The rolls are fancy, too, like the Avocado Maki with shishito mayo, yamagobo and wasabi pea dust, and the Forbidden Maki with black rice, white asparagus, shiso, yuzu mayo and micro celery.
4515 Sharon Road
Don’t forget — any leftover wasabi must be eaten in a clump all at once. Kidding. Don’t play that game. I did once and was filled with horseradish and regret.
Photos: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer, Katie Toussaint, Observer file