Nakato Japanese Restaurant recently held a traditional Japanese dinner in their Tatami room. I was so honored to be a guest for this exquisitely unique experience.
A Tatami Room is a traditional Japanese tea room and it is unlike any other dining experience in Atlanta.
Owner and general manager, Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara, granddaughter to restaurant founder Tetsuko Nakato, greeted us by sharing the fascinating history of Nakato.
Tetsuko Nakato dove into the restaurant industry shortly after arriving in America in 1972. She was 65 years old and spoke no English. It wasn't long before her dedication and perseverance paid off. Nakato soon became a thriving business and Tetsuko became a well respected restaurateur in the Atlanta market.
Our party was led through the expansive restaurant to the Tatami rooms. Nakato has four unique dining experiences including the hibatchi teppanyaki grills, the sushi bar and the traditional restaurant serving a complete, authentic Japanese menu. Nakato also offers classes in traditional teas as well as the art of flower arranging.
The Tatami room experience is beyond anything you can imagine. It's a wonderful journey in Japanese culture. When entering the room we were asked to remove our shoes. I was wearing espadrille heels and was fairly thrilled with the request. We were seated on the floor on ultra comfortable seats and cushions. The atmosphere was reminiscent of a relaxing spa day, but with exceptional food and drink.
Upon being seated we were poured a glass of Japanese Sapporo beer. In Japanese culture it's considered unlucky to pour your own beer, so it was poured for us.
Our first taste of Nakato's grand menu was an aperitif of shiso shochu served in beautiful blue and gold glasses. The shiso shochu was accented with shimmering gold flecks in the beverage and was divinely delicious.
Next came a gorgeous glass filled with king crab salad with apple vinegar. The glass noodles provided a delicate base that highlighted the tartness of the vinegar and sweetness of the crab.
The crab salad was served with a taste of traditional Japanese saki.
Following the king crab salad, each guest was presented a spectacular five point appetizer which included "miso" grilled black cod, slow cooked "tsubugai" sea whelk, salmon terrine, fried "kawaebi" river shrimp and "sera mame" broad bean. There is not an adequate definition of delicious in existence that comes close to describing this offering.
The next course from Chef Kinjo was an impressive three point sashimi plate that featured "madai" Japanese snapper, "toro" marbled tuna and "isaki" grunt fish. There is no comparison to the quality of ingredients and fresh flavors in this dish.
Following the heavenly sashimi was a decadent, traditional savory custard "chawanmushi". Imagine a spoonful of pure spun silk in every spoonful and you'd have this dish. The texture was only surpassed by the taste.
As we were finishing our custard and enjoying fantastic conversation, we were served a trio of family style Japanese plates. This first dish was a delicious miso grilled eggplant. Boasting the perfect amount of sweetness to salty, this was a wonderfully unique way to prepare eggplant. I may have enjoyed two of these. Perhaps...three.
The second family style offering was a huge plate of assorted tempura. Tempura is a Japanese dish of fish, shellfish, or vegetables, fried in batter. Shrimp, scallops, crab and an assortment of vegetables were perfectly prepared and served to our party with a divine matcha salt.
After all of the amazing offerings from Chef Kinjo, and each superb in taste, quality and presentation, he served the crown jewel of Nakato; a vast array of freshly rolled sushi accented with short neck clam miso soup.
This is the point in the meal where you place a piece in your mouth, close your eyes and enjoy the bursts of freshness and flavor with every single bite.
There isn't a more stunning presentation in all the food world that can rival that of a tray of perfectly rolled, straight from the sea fresh sushi. I thoroughly enjoyed every...single...bite.