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60° Good Afternoon

Ginza review

The tuna tortilla: thinly sliced tuna with avocado,

The tuna tortilla: thinly sliced tuna with avocado, jalapeno and spicy mayo atop a crispy tortilla. (April 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Johnny Simon

Near Sunrise Mall, behind White Castle, on an ex-Sizzler site, Ginza startles and tantalizes: an illuminated sushi temple that stands out as brightly as Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation."

Arbors mark doorways to the shiny, angular, steel-and-tile showcase. Beyond the columned entrance, the colors are crimson and black. Aluminum chains cascade and shimmer as screens. Life-size, terra-cotta soldiers keep watch from museum-style niches. The bar features ovoid, suspended seats that would suit the Jetsons.

An oversize, freeze-frame mural of Tokyo's Ginza district, interrupted by the reality of a white thermostat, unfolds opposite the maitresse d's stone station. The high-ceilinged central dining area delivers a view of the perpetual-motion, backlit sushi bar.

Patrick Yam and his fellow sushi chefs are busily slicing fish from Tokyo's famed Tsukiji market and closer sources. The result often is as sharp as their knives. Uncooked fish is the lure at Ginza, ideal start to finish for purists.

You also can put together a meal of more conventional sushi and pan-Asian-fusion cooked dishes. Ginza adroitly prepares them too. But the twain meet on a busy east-west playground, and that's where you should join in.

Try tuna gyoza, crisp fried dumplings, accented with spicy aioli and set on house-made guacamole. Add sweetness with the flaky, now-familiar miso black cod. Tasty chicken-lettuce wraps become a balancing act with slender romaine leaves.

Teriyaki-glazed, Kobe-beef meatballs are appetizing mouthfuls, dabbed with sweet wasabi aioli. Mango and tomato salsa complement crisp, sesame-crusted calamari. Guacamole, black olives, snippets of sun-dried tomato and rounds of jalapeño pepper cap a crunchy, tuna-topped tortilla.

Preferably before but also after these eclectic alternatives, turn to the elegant sashimi and sushi. There are $38, $45 and $50 platters. Or you can pick a price point and ask your waiter for the chef's choice. From rich o-toro and chu-toro tuna to poker-chip cuts of scallop and half-shell Kumamoto oysters, sweet shrimp to baby yellowtail, all excellent. Yam also may gild the fish, as in a special spoonful of the lush o-toro with truffled soy sauce. The chef's special rolls, whether dubbed "red devil," "sexy model" or "icon" ("extremely spicy!!" -- though not so) are colorful, but secondary.

"Kitchen entrees" take in a tender rack of lamb with wasabi-mashed potatoes; deftly grilled wild Pacific salmon with blood-orange miso; sea bass finished with herb-miso sauce and black rice; well-done teriyakis and tempuras.

You can find that stuff elsewhere, as you could a better crème brûlée and tiramisu. Avoid tempura cheesecake anywhere.

Rub your eyes and discover Ginza.


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