Jimmy and Jennifer (it's amazing how many Js are in my life, so I am actually going to use names now) became child free for the summer. With so much time on their hands, they arranged for a long lunch with Jason and I a week ago. Little did I know, by long, they meant three hours long. :)
Tairyo is the one of few places in Atlanta with tatami style seating. Although the owner did considerately provide for a foot pit, so patrons do not have to seat kneeing down on their feet, which, to the uninitiated, is quite painful. Actually, such seating position is even becoming unpopular in its native Japan due to its tendency to cause bow leggedness, which, when not covered by a kimono, is quite unattractive.
We were brought the lunch menu, but Jennifer quickly waved it away in favor of the more elaborate dinner menu. Since it's our first time here, we wisely settled for their pick of the set menu (U-mi course) for four. So begins the endless parade of food.
Tairyo started us off easy with a smooth chawanmushi (steamed egg custard). The custard wobbled attractively as I attacked it with my spoon. The lack of air bubbles indicated a slow steam on low heat. This preparation of eggs is probably my favorite growing up, so I ate happily and savored the chunks of abalone. The side salad, I ignored. It didn't look too attractive.
Next up were fried cod pieces with a tartar like sauce on the side. The panko breading was predictably crunchy, but the cod meat tasted just a tad frozen in texture. But then again, fried crunchy fish is easy to put down.
There was also a large piece of eel. Obviously the winner of the two, its tender and sweet flesh won over all at the table.
There is just something so appealing about a bento offering. Perhaps it's the idea of having so many varieties. Perhaps it's the cuteness of it all. Whatever it is, it makes me happy. Of the six items in the box, my favorite was the egg salad. A perfect mound of creaminess sprinkled with additional yoke. Also good were the meatballs in the clay pot. If you don't like sweetness, then these are not for you. But if a sweet mirin is your thing, then this classic meatball dish cooked in soy sauce and mirin is comfort all the way.
Then we got into serious sushi territory. There were different cuts of salmon and tuna, ranging in fattiness. I personally prefer the fattiest cut of salmon to the fatty toro. I have no reason for it, just a preference. I know, I know, this take me out of serious sushi eating category, but so what. Food is personal. Superb were the sweet shrimp, shelled but with the heads still attached. I know I use this word too much, but the flesh was really creamy and distinctly sweet. Also acceptably fresh tasting was the uni. By far my number 1 sushi choice in general, freshness is key for this item, even more so than the rest. The generous portion here was good enough for sure, but the quality was not exceptional. Then again, very few places can have great uni for Saturday lunch.
The next large platter contained the prized live lobster. Yes, the lobster was still moving, yet his tail meat was glistening next it on the bottom left of this photo. If that disgusts you, make sure you ask for no lobster or removal of the body from the platter. Like the sweet shrimp, the lobster tail meat tasted faintly sweet. But rather than creamy, it was a little crunchy and reminded me of the ocean.
On the bottom right was another favorite, monkfish liver. Foie gras of the sea!
Grilled fishes. Crispy!
If you are not use to salmon collar that comes with the head still attached, you may be taken aback by this dish. But once you get pass the eye balls, the neck meat is really great and full of fatty flavors.
Getting near the end with spicy salmon roll.
Lightly braised fish in a soy and mirin broth. Pure home comfort. There were spots of scales left on though... Definitely a missed detailed.
At the very end, after being stuffed to the neck, one gets to choose whether to finish things off Japanese style with udon or Korean style with kimchee soup cooked with the lobster shell from before. Most went for the lighter udon, but I wanted spicy. Thank goodness we waited a good hour talking before ordering this. It was very filling.
We started this meal at 1pm and didn't finish until well after 4. Jason and I pretty much waddled out of the door and were rendered useless (at least for anything active) for much of the evening. So plan accordingly. I would try to avoid eating this meal for dinner later in the day. You need time to digest.
5953 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30340