On a roll

Ariake Sushi is the real deal

By Paula Johnson

Photo: One of the many sushi offerings available at Ariake

Surrounded by the subdued chatter of Japanese conversation in the bustling yet relaxing dining room of Ariake Sushi Bar and Restaurant, you might feel you’ve been transported to Tokyo. Sitting in a comfortable booth, PIP (Palate In Progress) and I observed fellow diners enjoying an array of artfully arranged, elegant looking platters of various Japanese standards. I found myself having a series of “I’ll have what they’re having” moments as I watched and inhaled the aroma of each new dish passing our table. Overseeing the dining room, and delivering many of the dishes herself, was owner Fumiko Whigham, who formerly operated Akashi in Huber Heights. Whigham came out of retirement to open Ariake near the Dayton Mall in August 2014.

Dining dilemma

What to order? Ariake offers a whole range of Japanese delicacies from sushi and rolls to noodle dishes, tempura, katsu, teriyaki and even beef liver. The extensive menu features attractive photos of a great many menu items, allowing you to choose based on visual appeal as well as description. Our friendly and helpful server, Aria, urged we begin with the Calamari Appetizer ($8.95), always a favorite of PIP’s. Ariake’s flash-fried heaping tangle was crisp and tender and not to be missed. Also at her suggestion we chose the Fatty Salmon Belly ($6.95). The inside of the meaty fish was sweet and unctuous, deliciously oily with a caramelized salt-grilled outer crust.

We had just ordered some additional bites when we were joined unexpectedly by the Inimitable Mr. N, a regular diner at Ariake. Mr. N’s favorites, eel, seaweed salad and a colorful rainbow roll were delivered in no time was we chatted. Our other choices, shrimp Sumai ($4.95) and a Tempura Appetizer ($7.50) arrived quickly, and were of the same quality as our previous choices. The tempura was well executed, light and airy with a lacey coating. A good dumpling should be like a little present for your mouth. These shumai, with the sweet tasting shrimp wrapped in soft melting dumpling wrappers, were a gift.

Use your noodle

We covered a few bases with our previous samplings, and, now, it was time to round out our experience with a noodle dish and some sushi. We found the recommended Nabeyaki Udon ($12.95), a bowl of thick slippery noodles and sliced onion swimming in a salty savory broth to be very satisfying. It’s topped with egg, scallion and tempura shrimp.

Like a lot of Japanese food, the noodle’s broth was rich with satisfying umami flavoring. But what exactly is umami? Along with four previously identified distinct tastes, sweet, salty, sour and bitter, a Japanese scientist identified a fifth: umami. It’s a taste that is described as pleasantly savory, meaty, complex and long lasting. In a word: mouthwatering. The taste comes from a naturally occurring glutamate, a type of amino acid, which is present in certain foods, a lot of which are staples in Japanese cuisine. Grilled meats, seafood, seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce and bonito flakes are a few examples of umami-rich Japanese ingredients. It explains why many Asian food preparations feature a few well-chosen simple ingredients list resulting in a complex and deeply satisfying taste experience.

The rules of sushi

We still had one more box to check: sushi. Ariake had performed well to this point, and it was time to seal the deal. We tried the Sushi Appetizer ($9.95), a five piece sampling of tuna, salmon, octopus, squid and shrimp.

What makes good sushi and how do you eat it? Starting with the fish, texture is paramount. Depending upon the fish it’s sliced either with or against the grain. It should be freshly sliced and nicely cool—not cold or warm. Aficionados like to sit at the sushi bar because it allows the most control over texture and temperature of the fish. As to the rice, it’s a short-grained variety called uruchimai. It’s the same kind that’s used to make sake, which may be why a sip of sake’s astringent taste after eating a bite pairs so well with sushi. The rice is tossed with salt, sugar and rice vinegar and tossed gently to cool it to room temperature before it is formed into a perfect bite sized platform for the sliced fish. It’s to be eaten with the hands, not chopsticks. Protocol is dipping the fish side down in plain soy sauce. Add the wasabi separately. And it should be eaten in one bite, something that’s not always easy to do.

One roll to rule them all

And how did Ariake measure up? PIP and I were both pleased finding the elements of texture, temperature, flavor and mouth-feel of the fish and the rice to be very good. It’s—by far—the best sushi I have tried in Dayton. Ariake followed the rules of sushi, so it’s safe to say Ariake rules.

Ariake Sushi Bar and Restaurant is located at 59 Fiesta Ln. in Miamisburg. For more information, please call 937.221.9739 or visit facebook.com/ariakesushi.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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