on tuesday night i was out to celebrate a good friends first foray into the working world as a rookie barrister (thats a lawyer person to you and me), and found myself at a four top littered with oriental patterned plates, crumbled up chop stick wrappers, and plates left barren minus the molehill like remnants of what once were wasabi mountains.
at first glance you probably would of guessed we were at one of the numerous sushi establishments that baltimore has to offer. were we at the harbor east swankery ra? nope. what about the other place in harbor east, chius, the sushi place that is more japanese paper doll than swanky place? nope. what about asahi in fells? nope. we were actually sitting next to what used to be the old big bar at friends which has recently received a face lift, a new proprietor, and a complete cultural overhaul to become the latest restaurant to open in fells point, sticky rice.
we didnt wind up at sticky rice at random, rather there had been a little buzz about the place for a while and this trip was intentional. the sticky rice in baltimore is the new born little sister of sticky rice in dc. like lots of other newish things coming out of dc, sticky rice was well blogged/tweeted about, so we were very interested to see what the baltimore locale had to offer.
|theme and setting. check.|
when walking in the bar draws all your attention. its the big bar from friends which in a sushi restaurant does two things instantly. 1.) it disarms you by making you feel comfortable, like youre just walking into any corner bar baltimore, usa. 2.) it boisterously proclaims that this is the sushi joint where youd find mr miyagi. the space was dark, but not too dark. the bar was wood, and the floor was wood. there was some art on the walls and a loud variety of tunes coming from ipods. a very warm space.
like i said the bar grabs your attention, well at least it grabbed our attention because we wound up sitting and enjoying $2 happy hour pbr drafts (note there were plenty of other draft options ... maybe 12 or so, but we were in the pbr mood) so without knowing about the place i wouldve said that we had just walked into a new, thoughtfully re-done, hipster centered, local drinking spot. couldnt of been anymore wrong, because while those are all true aspects of sticky, its the food that dominates here.
rather than walk you through the menu ill just list the prodigious amounts of deliciousness we painstakingly consumed.
tuna tartar - this wasnt a classic tartar that is cubed then stacked, rather this was blended and left it the consistency of a more terrestrial ground meat. this texture coupled with the quail yoke that was nestled a top of the tartar allowed for a sticky consistency that was very scoopable with chop sticks once blended together. make sure to dip the tips of your sticks in the siracha before scooping. lovely special and an inventive take on a dish thats been made a gizillion times ... will order again, but not every time i dine there.
sticky balls - these came recommended to us by our server (forget the guys name, but he was awesome) who said that sticky balls were sticky rices signature dish. we had these for a starter with the tartar and they were wonderful. light and crisp pack with flavors and not greasy at all. heres the description from the menu 'tuna, crab, siracha rice in an inari pocket fried topped w/scallions, wasabi dressing and eel sauce' ... going to be hard not to order every time i go.
surprise course: these came out as a surprise from the sushi chef (it was a tuesday and we were 1 of 5 tables there and definitely the ones eating the most, so tip of the cap to the sushi chef who saw a captivated audience and pounced)
spincy tuna - like the salmon avocado roll the spicy tuna is offered everywhere and can serve as a pseudo gold standard for sushi comparison. this one did not disappoint. tuna was season with spices, but still fatty cut that wasnt over powered. the rice was thinly layered and the siracha came throuh perfectly ... in a bind and not going for the wow factor i will order this plenty of times.
|snap, crackle, pop|
crunchy shrimp - tempura shrimp, avocado, and cucs with a dash of spicy mayo? ummmm yes please! ... this along with the sticky balls will be my go to starters, you know start fried then work your way to healthy.
tuna sashimi - great knife work. these were small slices that had been kissed with so soy and some seasame. refreshing ... when im having one of my 'i need to re-examine my life style and start putting more healthy things in my body' i will be eating alot of the sashimi here.
on to the rolls:
drawn n buttered - again our server whos name i cannot recall suggested this roll pretty heavily. i liked the concept of the dran n buttered; tempura shrimp and crab roll with a dish of clarified butter thats been garnished with scallions for dunking. sushi and butter. could this be the pairing thats been missing from the culinary cannon of my life? sadly no. the gimmick was nice and creative, but it falls short. maybe if there was more spice that could be cut with the fattyness of the butter ... will order with large groups, but wont order solo
godzirra - 'oh no they say hes got go ... go, go, go godzirra!' this could easily become their signature roll. its got a quirky name, its 12 pcs, its got shripm, avocado, cream cheese, wasabi mayo, and an amazing crunchy texture throughout ... if i am with more than 1 other person i am 100% going to order this
chili roll - lena, our sandwich slinging (no for real she runs a sandwich shop ... interesting right?!?!) bartender suggested this roll when she was going over her favorite healthy-ish pics from the menu. i got to be honest and say that upon ordering, this was the one i was least excited about. but as we all know the ending, this was the one i enjoyed the most. it consists of tuna, cilantro, jalapeno, and grilled pineapple. at first i was thrown off by the heat of jalapeno, the sweetness of the pineapple, and the bursting freshness of the cilantro in a sushi roll. but after getting involved in the siracha mayo on the side it all came together. sweet, fresh, and spicy ... i will order this every time i go.
snap crackle and pop - i know i know youre probably thinking 'how much freaking food did these dudes eat?' ... the answer is a lot. i told you that already. well the rice crispy themed roll was the only salmon based roll that we had and the origin of it is inventive name comes from; snap of the cucumbers, crackle of the crisp rice, and pop of the jalapeno ... i was honestly 3 quarters of the way into of food comma, so i will have to eat this bad boy the next time i go in to do it justice.
billy goats gruff - we ended up having this roll for dessert. seriously we had talked about ordering it before, but i got lost in the ordering. the table next to us told us that we had missed out on a gem, so before grabbing the check we put in an order. great call. seriously rich bite sized treats that were simply an asparagus spear surrounded by goat cheese wrapped in tuna and then baked with a soy ginger flavoring. contrast for the soft fishy goat cheese pillow was provided by cucumber straws. will order this on a semi regular basis bc of how rich it is.
im excited to have sticky rice here in fells point. it has hints of my favorite restaurant in the world, momofuku saam bar. when i say its like saam bar i am not at all putting them on the same plain, but rather pointing out that they share similar characteristics; bucking the trend, fusion that works, catering to everyone, hip staff, rock and roll chefs, and most importantly food that kicks ass! this is a great step forward in the culinary world of baltimore.