It took us a minute to find the door, around the side of the white-bricked Japanese restaurant, and once inside, my dad and I were confused by the primarily empty hibachi tables. A friend — whose parents own a different Japanese restaurant in town — swore that Asahi would be top notch for sushi and other Japanese favorites in Greensboro, but at first blush this appeared more like a downgraded version of Kabuto.
Still puzzled, we were seated at an empty hibachi table and handed sparse menus. This must’ve been how Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister felt when he stepped off the plane in New York and realized this couldn’t be Florida — I thought we were doing everything right, but upon arrival, I struggled to understand what happened.
And so — like McCallister upon arrival at his hotel — I asked for directions, but instead of an irresponsible billionaire and future president pointing me towards the lobby, our server motioned through some short curtains straight ahead.
From there, it was smooth sailing.
My dad and I walked past the seats at the sushi counter, picking a booth along the Market Street side of the restaurant. Here, sunlight spilled in and bathed much fuller menus, featuring an array of items I couldn’t wait to try.
The calamari salad isn’t fried ringlets, instead coming out as seasoned and delicious squid that didn’t make either of us the least bit squeamish. The mushi shoo mai — or steamed pork dumplings — came wrapped in cabbage leaves inside a metal container. If my dad had let me, I would’ve happily downed the whole order on my own.
I wanted to order all of the noodle dishes, ranging from soba to udon to ramen, but I held back because we’d come with sushi on the brain. But the roast pork and vegetable ramen will certainly require a return trip.
We ordered a variety of individual pieces of sushi, two apiece like Noah’s arc of seafood, including mackerel, salmon and lean-cut tuna nigiri (think fish pressed atop the rice instead of a roll). We also selected baked blue crab and another gunkan maki roll with salmon roe and a quail egg perched on top, as well as a dragon roll with eel and avocado.
Easily the most distinct, the squishy orange salmon roe (eggs) dripped off the rolls with a slick texture that would probably freak out conservative eaters. The similarly gelatinous quail egg perched in the middle of the roe nest on top is optional, but why not go in on it?
The baked blue crab maki looked almost like the contents of a deviled egg coifed on top of the roll. It too satisfied, though maybe not as much as the tuna or salmon nigiri. The dragon roll, while tasty, proved a little less memorable, but when you’re up against such colorful competition — the likes of which I rarely indulge — that’s to be expected.
I convinced my dad we should share a small bottle of the inexpensive Joto sake, a cloudy junmai nigori served cold. Our server even brought a small basket with ice, treating the sake like tableside champagne, and I happily took my fill.
I’m not prepared to say that Asahi is the best Japanese restaurant in Greensboro — I’m a partisan for Don, though I admittedly order Korean food there with regularity. And while I might be a food writer, I don’t think I’m qualified to argue who makes the best sushi in town, either — I’m the kind of guy who’s pretty thrilled by Mizumi’s all-you-can-eat sushi option, though I’ve only taken advantage of it once.
But what I can say is that we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, both satisfied with everything we ordered from the child-sized kaisou seasoned seaweed salad to the sushi.
You can bet I’ll be back for the ramen, and maybe the nabeyaki udon with seafood. But I also want to try the Korean-style yakiniku beef, the scallop tempura and so much more of the sushi. Either way, when I return I’ll turn left and walk straight through the curtains and ask for the full menu, which includes hibachi items a la carte.
The only downside is that, unlike Kevin McCallister, I won’t have my dad’s credit card.
Visit Asahi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar at 4520 W. Market St. (GSO) or find it on Facebook.