For a light meal during the heat of the summer, try sushi. The Unknown Food Critic talks with Eric Paulsen about his top four picks for local sushi bars.
5130 Freret Street, New Orleans
Since its emergence as a restaurant row, Freret Street has developed a highly diverse roster of dining destinations. It was only a matter of time before a sushi bar joined the fray, though with Origami this central Uptown stretch was lucky to get a very versatile one. The standard sushi bar items and Japanese noodle dishes and dinner combinations are all handled well enough, though the sushi bar really excels with slightly more offbeat and creative numbers. Always consult the specials board first. Even if something sounds unusual you can trust it here.
Kanno California Sushi Bar
3205 Edenborn Avenue, Metairie
It's easy to overlook Kanno, tucked away in a rather forlorn strip mall in Fat City. But that would be a mistake. This is a particularly intimate, consistently excellent sushi bar, overseen by a hospitable staff, led by an outgoing chef (everyone calls him Elvis) and home to some truly unique and outstanding creations. The specials menu is always crammed with items. At the end of the meal, you might get a few pieces of house-made chocolate, an unusual but memorable touch. But that's just par for the course at this place.
8312 Oak Street, New Orleans
This stylish, contemporary Japanese restaurant brings top-notch raw materials, artful presentation and a creative streak on the house specialties. Things get interesting right from the start of this menu, where ceviches and other raw salads add to the options. Live shellfish is a major specialty, and the cooked dishes are bistro-quality. The kitchen stays open late (a bonus for its location next to the Maple Leaf music club) and the bar and sushi bar alike offer generous and frequent happy hour deals.
920 Poydras Street, New Orleans
There is very little flash here, not in the subdued, linear decor nor in the straightforward menu of basic rolls, nigiri and sashimi. But that simplicity only underscores the outrageous freshness and quality of the fish. The ultimate test for a Japanese restaurant is its sashimi the raw deal, with nothing but the chef's knife as intermediary between the fish and your palate, not even rice and this is the great way to eat at Horinoya.