Sushi Koji, Greenville - SC : Thank you Michael B. (long)
We had dinner Saturday night at Sushi Koji and sat at the bar. Having read Michael B.'s comments about a dichotomy between what is served to Japanese and others in the know vs. the rest of us, we were unsure how to begin. The menu is singularly unhelpful (if we had been given one).
We asked our waiter if we could have omakase. He made my husband repeat it. I'm having an "oh no" moment. But then, he spoke to Koji in Japanese, I'm straining to hear "omakase" , and sure enough, Koji asks if we want sashimi or sushi. Sashimi for me, nigiri for my husband. Koji asks if hubby wants cook rish or raw? - raw. How hungry am I?- medium hungry.
Koji began by taking a gorgeous little mackerel and filleting it, it was cool to watch him, and it was very time-consuming. I also had salmon, toro, yellow tail, something I don't know what it was but I love it, and what I think was snapper. Husband's nigiri included much of the same, plus clam, white tuna(?). We had an inside out roll -the rice on the outside having been fried, and a crab roll w/ some kind of gorgeous fish (possibly more toro).
After we finished, the waiter asked if I would like to have my Mackerel bones fried to eat "like a snack". Sure. Bones come, and as I try to lift the body onto my plate w/ chopsticks, waiter tells me to eat w/ my hands and put on some lemon juice. Husband and I consume. Delicious. At this point, the hostess has been stopping by periodically to check if we were eating everything and seeming surprised. Waiter brings green tea and sorbet.
Everything was spectacular. Service was warm and perfect. Our dinner was $56(no alcohol), the bargain of the year. If we had been hungry we might have ordered more food, but we had been snacking during the afternoon, and so it was the perfect amount.
Koji asked where we were from, and on hearing Greenville said he didn't remember seeing us. It's true, I feel silly for not being more of a regular.(although when I told him I come more at lunch, he said Oh, he was playing golf during lunch) Husband pronounced it the best fish he's had anywhere except Soto in Atlanta, and better than Blue Ribbon Sushi and Nobu(sushi portion of meal) in NY. I agree.
Two questions for Michael B. please:
We watched the regulars as they left, but could not spot anyone tipping Koji. We left a big tip, but all on the one line on the cc slip. Is that OK? Any suggestions on how I can get a glass of really good sake on my next trip?
Terrible menu isn't it? And w/ Koji-San's wife pushing "Americanized crap" it is so much more difficult.
Generally you do not tip the owner of a Japanese sushi bar but Koji-San has been here for many years so would not be offended. If you left a tip on the cc slip it went into the general pool which is fine.
As to sake...they have many wonderful choices but he one I prefer is a mid level one that starts w/ an "H". I'll get the name next time but I won't be in Greenville for another few weeks. Sorry...
Hata-San is now the #2 chef and is a good friend of mine. Ask for him and use my name...He knows me as michael-san...danced on a table w/ a Panthers cheerleader many years ago at Ru-San's opening party, I'm old but still crazy. Wifie just laughed.
danna and michael b, if you don't mind, would you tak a quick look at this recent thread on the Not About Food Board and let me know what you think about the *how much is enough* part? How did your dinner come to an end; were you full or had reached your price limit and how did you convey that? We plan to go there in a couple weeks and I'd like to try the omakase event. We've not had that since Saki sold her restaurant in Columbia. But we're going to a concert afterwards and I don't want to be TOO full. Thanks!
re: Sweet Pea
The only question we were asked regarding size of the dinner was when Koji asked me if I were very hungry or medium hungry. After we ate, he asked if we wanted more. I am curious what would have arrived next, but I was full. Hopefully he will ask you and you can give the "medium hungry" answer. Since I got sashimi, there was no rice to fill me up...I don't think you will feel bloated at the concert.
There was no discussion of price until the bill came. Yes, that made me nervous. Even though I could probably pay whatever the bill turned out to be and still afford to eat next week, being an accountant, daughter of a banker, it makes my skin crawl a little not to know what I'm about to pay for something, but I just had to roll with it.
Once before, dining at a table, we ordered a sashimi selection and they did ask me then how much I wanted to spend. I think I said $30, and it was a TON of fish, including some uni.
I'm sure you'll have a nice time once Koji sees you are a liberal eater. Although almost everyone at the bar appeared to be regulars (some woman went on a sake rant about how she was going to bring him pimento cheese next time), they were mostly eating rolls and cooked things. Koji and staff were practically treating us like celebrities by the time we left. Eat a fish head, apparently, and you're a star ;-)
Try buri kama sometime. Never seen it on the menu in the south, you have to ask for it. Actually on the buffeet at Ru san's in Charlotte
Buri is a certain size of tuna (I think) and kama is the collar or neck. Usually grilled w/ a light sauce. Usuallu not very expensive since the only other thing they can fix w/ that piece is fish stock.
re: michael b
Buri is the word for an adult hamachi (yellowtail). So, a buri-kama is pretty much the same thing as hamachi-kama, which probably appears on menus or special boards with more frequency. They're usually simply salted and grilled, and accompanied with a ponzu type sauce, or just with grated daikon that you mix with soy sauce and lemon.
re: Sweet Pea
Sorry for the late reply.
I've never had a problem w/ ending things when I was finished. I don't eat until I'm full only until I'm happy.
Omakase is usually only done w/ chefs that are a known quantity and are trusted. Single pieces of prime toro at Hatsuhana in NYC can cost twenty or more dollars each. I only can think of three places I go that direction...actually only two I fully trust. Sushi Koji (Greenville, SC) and Hatsuhana (48th and Mad in NYC) are the two. Mai in Charlotte is a maybe.
Wouldn't even consider it anywhere else.