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Nikko Review: A Culinary Gem in Charlotte's Sushi Scene

Updated: 3 days ago

Nikko Review: A Culinary Gem in Charlotte's Sushi Scene, Joanna Owner, Beth, Jim, 2004

Joanna, Beth, Jim, 2004

I got to know Joanna and James Nix in 1999 when I was introduced to them by my former business partners in our development business. In the 2000s, Joanna and James operated their sushi restaurant, Nikko, in a small building located near the corners of East and South Boulevards. My partners had purchased that property from their landlord, as well as the land located on the hard corner to build a store for Eckard drugs. And they helped Joanna and James relocate to what was originally the Lance cracker factory located slightly north on South Boulevard.  Since then, the Nix's purchased a larger space in the building next door to their former space and have been operating there for the past 20 years. For much of that time, other sushi restaurants in Charlotte paled in comparison to the quality of the food and the experience that diners would have at Nikko. More recently, other high-end places have opened giving Nikko more valid competition. However, the food is still excellent, and the experience is still unrivaled at Nikko.

That experience is largely due to Joanna who is originally from South Korea.  Knowing no one, Joanna moved to the US when she was 18 years old. She eventually made her way to Myrtle Beach where she convinced the owner of a local Japanese restaurant to hire and teach her how to make sushi. At the time, Joanna was likely the only female sushi chef in the country.   

Arriving in Charlotte

After learning the trade, she made her way to Charlotte where she and James opened their restaurant. While sushi restaurants are known for their fresh fish, Joanna ordered all of her fish flown in daily from Japan.  She or James would arrive at the restaurant each morning at 4:00AM to accept the FedEx delivery. That’s commitment. Today, I think that she has someone meet those shipments.  From the quality of the fish, and the way that it was prepared by Joanna and her other sushi chefs, you can taste the difference.

As Nikko became more successful, Joanna moved from behind the sushi bar to the front of the restaurant to more fully interact with their customers.   And that is where she shines.  To say that she is a colorful personality does not do her justice.  Always wearing her trademark cowboy hat, she has a big personality and a knack for remembering names.  Soon after Beth and I became regulars, we took my parents.  Joanna took to them immediately and began calling them Mom and Dad.  Four years ago, she took my mom’s death about as hard as we did.  And to this day, she still calls my dad HER dad.   She loves to get a funny look from other customers when she tells them that she and I are siblings.

Sushi with a North Carolina Twist

Nikko Review: A Culinary Gem in Charlotte's Sushi Scene. For the food, there is much to love.  Our favorite appetizers are the Shumai Dumplings and the Korean Kalbi-style BBQ Beef Ribs which are marinated overnight in a recipe that Joanna brought from her native country.  The beef is then grilled to perfection. The ribs are actually an entree but can be ordered as an appetizer.

They have a few ramen dishes such as Shoyu and Tonkotsu.  And of course, the sushi.  Beth and I actually prefer sashimi to nigiri sushi.  The difference is whether or not the fish is served on sushi rice.  Sashimi is not.  We always get a couple of orders of salmon sashimi.  It is cut into thick pieces and melts in your mouth.  We will then order 2-3 rolls.  Some of our favorites are the Cowboy Roll (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and avocado, topped with Kobe steak, garlic olive oil sauce, and a slight touch of spicy teriyaki sauce), the VIP Roll (salmon, avocado, and mango topped with salmon and fresh jalapeño, served over the roll with spicy aioli), Tuna or Salmon Crunchy Roll (lightly panko tuna or salmon with Kani in Nikko's ponzu sauce topped with touch of chili / mayo & scallion), the Crazy Roll (salmon tempura roll with eel sauce & 7 spices), the Alaskan Roll (smoked salmon / steamed asparagus / avocado / cream cheese / Kani, scallion topped with Masago), the Nikko Roll (BBQ eel, toasted salmon skin, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, Kani topped with Masago, tobiko, scallions and eel sauce), and the Alex Roll (albacore tuna, Kani, asparagus, aioli sauce, topped w / tuna & avocado, red tobiko).  Kani is shredded crab.

Visit Nikko in Charlotte for an Unforgettable Sushi Experience

There is so much from which to choose.  We strongly recommend that you give Nikko a try if you have not been there and if you are a sushi fan.  Be sure to go on a night other than Sunday or Tuesday when Joanna is off.  It is worth the experience and the drive.  And as always, we love to hear from our readers if you do give it a try.

Joanna & Jim, 2004 - Nikko Owner and Fagan realty owner

Joanna and Jim, 2015


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