Monday, June 30, 2008

New Sushi

by Erin

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to dine at a relatively new sushi restaurant called RA, located in the chic Harbor East area of the city (right around the corner from Pazo, for those of you familiar with Charm City). RA is not your typical sushi bar with ladies in kimonos and small babbling fountains – far from it – and it was a lot of fun! And we’re not the only ones who think RA is a fun and unique place to be – when we walked in on Friday night, it was packed!

The overarching theme of the restaurant is “rock and roll sushi,” and everything from the decor to the servers to the cuisine fit into this category. The restaurant itself is decorated in reds and black, and the rock music is pumping through the sound system. All of the waiters and waitresses are decked out in black, sporting lots of piercings and some very cool tattoos. Our waitress had these awesome earrings that looked like razor blades with stars punched out of the middle (unfortunately, we forgot to ask her where she got them)! But most importantly, we were there to eat (big shocker there).

RA’s menu consists of both traditional and more modern, “rock and roll” sushi dishes. They have a lot of appetizers, some sashimi plates, and lots of unique rolls and nigiri sushi. While we can be pretty traditional when it comes to sushi, as true foodies we'll try anything, so that we did! We ordered a bunch of RA specialty items, and a couple traditional sushi dishes that we just couldn't resist.

But first: cocktails! The booze selection at RA was quite impressive. Not only did they have lots of specialty cocktails, but they also had quite the selection of beer, wine, and sake. We couldn't resist the cocktails though: Xani ordered the Moanin' Mango, made with a blend of Dutch vodka and sake, mixed with a spicy mango syrup and a splash of 7-Up and soda. This was very refreshing but definitely had some spice to it when it hit the back of your throat. I ordered the Effen Around in the RA, which consisted of Effen Black Cherry Vodka, Cointreau, sweet and sour mix, cranberry juice, and orange juice. Yum! This was really delicious and fruity, and I really liked the black cherry vodka, which I'd never had before.

Moanin' Mango

Just Effen Around in the RA

Then it was time to start eating! We started with their signature dish, the Viva Las Vegas Roll, which had some rice and cream cheese rolled in nori, which was then tempura fried, and topped with a spicy tuna and crab mixture and a slice of lotus root that had been deep fried. This was a very unique dish and it was on almost every table around us! It was very beautiful and had nice flavors and textures. Xani, however, gave each piece a "cream cheese-ectomy" before she would eat it--there are some lines that must not be crossed!

We then tried the Pork Gyoza, which were some of the best we've had in a long time. They were deep-fried and super crunchy and hot, freshly out of the oil, but not too greasy. They were crispy and had wonderful flavor, especially when dipped in the garlic ponzu sauce.

Next we had the Chili Ponzu Yellotail, which was one of their sashimi plates. This dish was really delicious and very unique. The yellowtail was thinly sliced and topped with fried pine and cashew nuts, and served with a Kochjan chili ponzu sauce that was sweet and spicy. So good!

We also had the Tootsy Maki (makes me think of "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsy Pop?"), which had crab, shrimp, and cucumber, rolled with tempura bits and topped with the eel sauce we love so much. We also had the Spicy Lobster Roll, that combined some Latin flavors in the sushi roll: it had lobster, cilantro, jalapeno, lettuce, avocado, and cucumber all rolled up in soy paper, not nori. This reminded me of when I had sushi in LA, and everything was made with soy paper instead of nori!

Tootsy Maki

Spicy Lobster Roll

One of the best specialty sushi dishes we had was the Crispy Spicy Tuna, which was different from any spicy tuna roll I've ever had (although Xani had had something similar in LA a few months ago). A mix of spicy tuna, sesame oil, masago, and chili sauce is placed atop a crispy sesame rice ball, which was crispy on the outside but chewy and sticky (in a good way) on the inside. This was truly a great bite (or two -- I learned the hard way that I should have eaten it in two bites. Although Xani was able to eat hers in one bite-- I believe her exact words were "This is where it pays to have a really big mouth." Um, yeah.).

On the traditional side, we got some of our favorites, including soft shell crab roll, hamachi (yellowtail) nigiri, and am ebi (sweet shrimp with deep fried heads!). The menu even lists that it comes with the heads! Unlike the am ebi at Sushi King and Matsuri, the head was not tempura-battered before it was friend, which made it taste more like the head-on, shell-on shrimps you would get at a traditional Chinese restaurant. The raw shrimp bodies were, as usual, totally delicious.

Soft-shell crab roll

Comin' atcha!

She loves those shrimp heads!

We also ordered Xani's and BCD Dad's favorite thing: uni (the roe (eggs) of a sea urchin). I had only tried uni once before, about 5 years ago now, and I didn't like it. But, I decided to give it another try. After all, this was the year I came to try (and like or love) raw oysters, fresh white anchovies, canned anchovies, gefilte fish, steamed clams, mackerel, and monkfish liver. Why stop now?? Before committing to the whole bite, I tried a bit of the uni on its own, per Xani's suggestion, and whaddya know? It tastes like the ocean! And just like Xani had explained to me, when you put the uni with the soy and wasabi, it is one of the most delicious bites of sushi, ever. It truly is very luxurious and flavorful, and totally awesome. Go Team Uni!

Uni and Hamachi

After my breakthrough and snacking on the last few rolls on the table, we perused the dessert menu. We ended up ordering the Raspberry-Mango Sorbet and the Green Tea Ice Cream. The sorbet was beautifully presented and was very sweet and refreshing. The green tea ice cream was surprisingly complex and almost tasted like chocolate.

Raspberry-Mango Sorbet

Green Tea Ice Cream

It was a great end to a delicious and interesting meal. The atmosphere was fun and the service was great. Our server was very helpful and entertaining, and even gave Xani a fist-pound when she ordered some Sapporo! Right on, girl. RA really has something for everyone, if you are looking for traditional sushi or something totally different, or something in between. It is a very lively place, and it has good happy hour specials, so maybe instead of another dinner, our next visit will be for snacks and cocktails...and uni.




  1. hi girls! love your blog - i'm from baltimore too - and LOVE to eat!

  2. ooh that meal looked so tasty!

  3. looks like fun and yum. I've got to find one of those crispy spicy tuna things around here...

    PS. If you like effen black cherry try it with soda and a slice of lemon at home. refreshing!

  4. Hmm...looks good! They're doing Restaurant Week...wonder if I can sneak over there for lunch some day?

  5. Looks like MY kind of sushi!

    Um...and now I'm hungry. Thanks for that.

  6. Do they offer gomae as an appetizer? I love to compare gomae dishes from various sushi restaurants. Good stuff.

  7. Great review and photos! Next time, you must get the cinnamon tempura ice cream. It is amazing.

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  9. What are your favorites?

    Sushi Assortment :: California roll, one piece each of: tuna, salmon, whitefish, yellowtail, shrimp & tamago ::

    Sashimi Assortment ::tuna, salmon, yellowtail, octopus & whitefish::

    Kiwi Scallop Sashimi :: sliced scallops & kiwi atop mango sauce with sauteed pine & cashew nuts, drizzled with kiwi wasabi and mango sauce ::

    Viva Las Vegas Roll :: kani kama & cream cheese rolled in rice & seaweed, lightly tempura battered & topped with spicy tuna, crab mix & sliced lotus root, finished with eel sauce & spinach tempura flakes ::

    Lobster Shrimp Roll :: lobster, cucumber & avocado rolled & topped with shrimp, served with an Asian pesto sauce ::

    New Zealand Roll :: smoked salmon, cream cheese & mango rolled in rice & seaweed, topped with scallop, kiwi & sauteed pine & cashew nuts, drizzled with eel & mango-tobiko sauce ::

    Tootsy Maki :: crab mix, shrimp & cucumber rolled & topped with crunchy tempura bits & drizzled with a sweet eel sauce ::

    Yellow Monkey Roll :: roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes & cream cheese rolled in rice & seaweed, topped with mango & cashew nuts, drizzled with kiwi wasabi sauce ::

    Crazy Monkey Roll :: smoked salmon, mango & cream cheese, topped with avocado, red tempura bits, cashew nuts & drizzled with mango & eel sauce ::

    Crispy spicy Tuna :: spicy tuna mix with sesame oil, masago & chili sauce served on top of crispy sesame rice ball ::

    Tunacado :: seared Ahi tuna dusted with Japanese rice crackers & black sesame seeds, served with fresh avocado & a creamy ponzu dipping sauce ::

    Gojira Roll :: shrimp tempura, crab mix, cream cheese & cucumber rolled & topped with spicy tuna & spinach tempura flakes ::

    Ultimate Shrimp Tempura Roll :: crab mix, cucumber & shrimp tempura rolled & topped with seared tuna & avocado ::


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