Business and leisure travelers to Atlanta, GA have long been advised to pack their stretch pants. Why? Because the city’s cuisine has been equated for decades with fried chicken-and-waffles, gut-busting burgers and – more recently – snout-to-tail servings of pork.

But all that’s changing.

Atlanta’s hottest new restaurants emphasize sushi delights that aren’t so harsh on the waistline, but tug heavily on the purse strings with meals starting at $65 and rising as high as $350. Atlanta’s blossomed into the South’s cutting edge hub for corporations, entertainers, researchers and entrepreneurs. And the local “foodie” palate is swerving toward the rarest and rawest seafood money can buy.

There’s nothing new about an abundance of quality sushi bars in a city of Atlanta’s size. Still, no major city’s fine dining profile is being so swiftly re-defined by a singular style of eating.


Enjoy Exclusivity at Umi and Himitsu

As far as anyone knows, Umi is the only prestige sushi spot in Atlanta where you have to know somebody who knows somebody to get invited into its accompanying cocktail lounge, Himitsu. Chef Fuyuhiko Ito’s Franco-Japanese menu is so austere that prices aren’t even included on the menu. If you have to ask, ‘How much?’, you can’t taste his keen sense of slicing and spicing rolls, foie gras and veggies. Umi – with its bright and wide open floor plan and stark black walls lined with life-sized vintage photos of solemn-faced geishas – is the ultimate see-and-be-seen scene. And it takes individually-assigned key codes to enter the bar. If the tab doesn’t devour more than your budget can digest, Umi’s worth the price of every savory “nigiri” bite.


Finding Balance at Eight Sushi Lounge

Yes, you can indulge your taste for fine filets of raw fish and rice rolls in a setting that welcomes diners of varying ages and incomes. At Eight – near all of downtown’s biggest sports, arts and history attractions – the emphasis is on inclusion into the club of sophisticated sushi dining. Eight elevates itself above the rest with a Japanese take on Eggs Benedict, and rolls and plates infused with the flavors of Europe, Africa and South America.

Image Courtesy of Eight Sushi Lounge

Ceviche / Image Courtesy of Eight Sushi Lounge

For serious carnivores in the midst, Eight offers re-oriented preparations of steak and quail. The bartenders at Eight liberally experiment with Japanese beer, wine, sake and whiskey recipes.

Eggs Benedict / Image Courtesy of Eight Sushi Lounge

Eggs Benedict / Image Courtesy of Eight Sushi Lounge

Morphing Modern With Familiar at MF Sushi

Don’t call it “a comeback”. The Kinjo Brothers (chef Chris and accountant Alex) have been killin’ it for years. They’ve recently downsized from an opulent space in the high-rent Buckhead shopping district to the nouveau riche Old Fourth Ward enclave; closer to all the simmering action downtown. The flair for the dramatic at MF Sushi is the same as it ever was: There’s no such thing as a bad seat because diners either face the spotlit bar, spy through huge sidewalk-view windows, or bask in the glow of teardrop chandeliers and towering candles in the dining room. An “omakase” meal at MF Sushi – in which you trust Chris implicitly to slice the daily catch to delicate perfection – can last hours and cost as a much as a monthly car payment. MF Sushi sources only the finest ingredients, and the Kinjo brothers are so confident in their distinctive prep and presentation techniques that they’ve launched a signature collection of cookware.

Broad Strokes at Brush Sushi Izakaya

Brush is a Japanese gastropub offering a combination of authentic quality Japan pub fare and unparalleled chef-driven sushi. The subtle twist at Brush is that the dishes are made mainly from fish gathered mere hours away along the Florida Gulf coast and produce from suburban Atlanta farms. The exotic tastes derive from planning and preparation, as opposed to their far-flung origins.

Stir-Fried Mentaiko Udon / Image courtesy of Brush Sushi Izakaya

Stir-Fried Mentaiko Udon / Image courtesy of Brush Sushi Izakaya

The signature skewers at Brush are flavor-flamed over imported Japanese white charcoal. Daily delicacies at this chic cafe on the edge of downtown are seasoned with distinctive peppers, nectars and salts cured painstakingly on the premises and the cocktail menu focuses on traditional Japanese ferments as well.

Osaka Takoyaki / Image courtesy of Brush Sushi Izakaya

Osaka Takoyaki / Image courtesy of Brush Sushi Izakaya

License to Chill at Hayakawa 

When everyone calls you “Art”, your sushi must be good. Chef Atsushi Hayakawa lives up to his reputation as a certified Master of traditional Japanese techniques at his minimalist spot on the northeast edge of town. Temporarily closed for renovation and scheduled to re-open in January 2016, Hayakawa is favored by sushi enthusiasts due to its affordability, unpretentious and family-friendly atmosphere and Art’s finesse with his knife. Hayakawa’s “nigiri” method relegates rice to a background component, as opposed to a filler ingredient. Go there to get back to basics of food and rice wine honed for centuries on the Japanese lowland. Cell phones are banned and you sit where you’re told. At Hayakawa, you pay for a lesson in discipline.