Cheryl Seligman, Features Editor

What do sushi and homemade vanilla bean crème brûlée have in common? Before dining at Piranha Sushi Bar, I would never have thought to pair the two together, but my meal at Piranha proved that, if executed correctly, unexpected flavors can unite to create an extremely savory and satisfying feast.

Located on bustling Park Avenue, Piranha embodies the ideal setting for a quiet and intimate meal with its deep red walls, dark wood tables and dim lighting.

Mixing Asian and Japanese cuisine with a western flair, Piranha seamlessly blends the two different cooking styles to produce a unique, yet scrumptious, dinner.

Starting with a small appetizer of broccoli and cauliflower with roasted almonds in a tahini and citrus dressing, my first course mixed several simple ingredients to create an appealing dish, inspired by Middle Eastern cooking, which was both crunchy and citrusy. The grass green color of the broccoli next to the egg yolk-yellow tahini dressing made this appetizer attractive to the eye as well as to the mouth.

I followed my appetizer with a salad that consisted of large cucumber slices and red peppers and onions mixed in a vinaigrette dressing. Although this dish also caught my eye with the bright green, red and purple ingredients, I have to say that it was my least favorite dish of the night. The onions overpowered the subtle flavors of the cucumbers and peppers, and after two or three bites, I had certainly had my fill of the dish.

Luckily, the following plate — a homemade wonton soup — completely redeemed the disappointing cucumber salad by showcasing the restaurant’s talent for redefining a classic Asian dish. The wontons were served in a flavorful broth sprinkled with scallions, red pepper flakes and chili flakes that gave it a hearty, yet spicy, undertone. Wrapped in a silky smooth noodle, the wontons consisted of beef, rather than the traditional pork, making the soup a less heavy alternative to the usual wonton soup.

Finally, the peak of my meal arrived: the sushi. After much deliberation I settled on a variety of different sushi rolls, including the Mistletoe roll and the sushi combo platter — I wanted the real Piranha experience.

You may be wondering why anyone would name a sushi roll Mistletoe, and I’ll admit I was curious myself, but the insistent persuading of my waitress convinced me to look beyond my taste buds’ qualms.

After one bite I knew I was wrong for being dubious because I entered pure sushi nirvana. Consisting of raw salmon, honey, cream cheese, avocado and fresh raspberries, the Mistletoe combined the most bewildering ingredients, yielding a sweet and salty twist.

Next on the sushi platter was a spicy tuna roll and a Berkeley roll, both of which sent my mouth into a sensory overload.

The former, adorned with freshly chopped basil, lived up to its name and took spicy to a new level while the latter consisted of smoked salmon, bacon avocado and remoulade sauce — a mayonnaise-based dressing similar to tartar sauce — which together made for a smoky, crunchy and tart sushi roll.

The last part of the sushi combo was a Nigiri roll — one with a larger piece of fish placed on top of the rice — that consisted of torched salmon sprinkled with fresh parsley. This torching technique nicely contrasted the warm salmon with the cold sticky rice.

While I thought I could not eat more after the sushi, I was unable to resist the homemade dessert menu, as I was curious to see how a sushi restaurant would execute vanilla bean crème brûlée, traditionally a French dessert. Once again, Piranha amazed me with its ability to master several different cuisines.

The crème brûlée arrived in a well-presented fashion with the hardened bronze caramel covering the cream-colored custard. The warm crunchy caramel accented the cool vanilla custard, creating the perfect finishing touch to my meal.

As any experienced foodie or restaurant junkie knows, a great meal can be ruined by horrible service, but this was far from the case at Piranha.

My waitress was attentive, without being overbearing, and offered numerous great suggestions throughout the meal.

Despite its moderately high prices, Piranha offers excellent deals for students, including the sushi combo platter, happy hour with sushi rolls ranging from $3 to $7 and a student discount.

All in all, Piranha’s Asian-American cuisine and intimate setting made for a delicious and enjoyable dinner.

Berkowitz is a member of the class of 2012.



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