I recently came back to Philadelphia for 2 weeks (mid-May) from my Belgian exile and Sandy & I had decided we would try new spots. We were also craving sushi and it just happened that we had wanted to try Ro-Zu since it opened back in March. Our friend Victor had already visited the place and told us nothing but good things about it.
Since the place was really basing itself on its Omakases, we opted for a mid-range one at $65. Options we were told about were $50, $65, and $80.
Very small spot à la Zento in Olde City. BYOB doesn’t hurt either. We asked to be seated at the (sushi) bar to get a better look at the food’s preparation. We are greeted by Chef Todd Dae Kulper. Young, of Korean descent, trained by Japanese Chefs, worked at Nobu in Miami, recently moved from Hawaii for the job. He put us at ease right away. Very cool and friendly.
After he asks us a couple of questions concerning our eating habits and our degree of food adventurousness, he starts us with this bad boy:
If tuna is the chicken of the sea, Monk Fish Liver is the Foie Gras of the sea. Rich, creamy texture, packed with flavor but not too overwhelming as the beautiful piece of Uni isn’t lost in the mix. Some truffled salt sprinkled on top and laying in a pool of truffled mustard miso. What a way to start this meal. Sandy was in love. She said it was already worth the $65. But yeah she tends to exagerate a bit… Needless to say I want to try Monk Fish Liver again soon.
Watching the Chef and his Sous prepare and plate in front of us is very, very neat. Chef Todd makes sure that his Sous is doing everything exactly the way he wants it. Cutting this way, arranging that way, and presenting this ménage à trois of Kumamoto Oysters.
We have one paired with Big Eye Tuna, Fresh Wasabi and Nigiri Sauce. Another with Yellowtail, Garlic, Jalapeño, Cilantro, and Yuzu Sauce. And the last one is topped with Horse Mackerel, Scallion, and Soy Sauce. Each”pairing” brought something different but I recall my favorite being the Yellowtail one.
Giant Live Octopus From Hokkaido . On the left side you can see Tentacle Sashimi topped with some Meyer Lemon juice, Hawaiian Pink Salt, and a Truffle Sauce. The texture was a bit unusual and reminded me a bit of jellyfish but less crunchy. Surprisingly enjoyable actually. And I guess you could say that because of the odd texture, the slices really showed some serious knife skills.
On the right side it’s a mix of Suction Cup and Skin, pressed and rolled into a Salami. Served on a bed of cucumber with a Jalapeño salsa. The Salami was a neat showcase of creativity and technique. Quite delicate as it was cut in a thin slice, but it retained the original texture. The salsa added some much needed spiciness since the Salami wasn’t the most flavorful bit.
For the next dish, some Japanese Yellowtail is thinly sliced, some Yuzu Soy Sauce is drizzled on it, a mix of Ginger – Garlic – Jalapeno is placed next to the fish, and last but not least, some oil is heated in a bowl using a torch then poured on the Yellowtail to give it a light sear. The oil used seems pretty light and doesn’t make the dish too greasy. Since we were served right away, we got the hot and cold feelings mixed in each bite. That was some seriously tasty Yellowtail.
Another knife skills display with this Sliced Wild Fluke. The flakes to the left of the picture are Bonito (skipjack tuna) Flakes which are cured, smoked, and shaved. Another name for it is Katsuobushi. They’re usually used to prepare Dashi which is a fish stock used as a base in many recipes in Japanese cuisine. Very dry and salty, they almosta absorb all your saliva when you just let it sit on your tongue. The Ponzu Sauce on the other hand is rather tart and was still being overwhelmed by the Katsuobushi. Overall I felt that the dish was a tad unbalanced and the Wild Fluke’s flavor was a bit lost in it.
As Chef Todd and his Sous were preparing this dish, I saw them put some Uni in a sauce pan and add some spices to make it, well, a sauce. Turns out it’s a Uni and Saffron sauce serving as the base for this take on a Baked Clam I’d say. Then a Mix of Red Snapper, Scallop, and Squid is placed in the shell. The sauce is added. And right before it’s put in the oven, an asparagus makes its way in it as well. A couple of minutes for the sauce to thicken, for the seafood mix to cook a little and out it comes where some Bonito flakes and Algae top it to finish the dish. With fresh and quality ingredients like they used, you really can’t go wrong. Each element retained its flavor and yet it all came together nicely. Great presentation as well.
Sushi Sampler. In no particular order (I forgot…): Yellowtail, Salmon, Tuna, Escolar, Squid, Horse Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Uni, Eel, and Red Snapper. You’ll notice a light browning on some of the pieces. That would be Soy Sauce that was brushed directly on the fish. Wasabi was also inserted in between the rice and the fish already. So no need to dunk it in in a Soy Sauce/ Wasabi concoction, it’s ready to be savored. And once again, great knife technique coupled with fresh and quality fish make a killer combo.
Finally, we are served a bowl of Spicy Miso Soup with a 7-Spices mix directly imported from Japan. I couldn’t tell you what they are but the soup tasted great. Just enough heat from the spices. The Algae didn’t taste like it was from an instant powder pack and despite the bubbles on top of the bowl, it didn’t taste too greasy. I was wondering why we didn’t get this soup served to us earlier in the omakase but I figured it was to preserve our taste buds in order to taste the fish better.
This Omakase rivaled Sandy and I’s 4 year anniversary Omakase dinner at Morimoto while only costing a fraction of the Morimoto bill. The overall experience was nothing short of great. Being able to chat with the Chef while he cooks for you is a lot of fun and very informative. I was very sad to find out that Chef Todd had left Ro-Zu recently for unknown reasons but I can only wish Chef Hung Pham to do as well as his predecessor.