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Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut when it comes to where we eat. That’s what happened to us where we would get sushi and other authentic Japanese food. Sushi is one of those cuisines where there are great sushi restaurants and many that are just mediocre. In the 1980’s Charlotte had 2-3 sushi places as I recollect. We generally avoid Japanese steakhouses that serve sushi as the quality of the fish is generally not that great.

When our children were still living at home, we got into a routine of ordering takeout sushi from one particular place in the SouthPark area because it was 10-15 minutes away. While the sushi is quite good, it’s always been a place where the service is adequate and the management didn't seem to care if we had a problem without order (ever acted appreciatively for our business).

Flashback to my first time ever having sushi. I vividly remember the experience. It was 1986, and I was out to dinner with my high school best friend, Stephen, and his parents. Doc and Betty took Stephen & I to a Japanese steak house on Tyvola Road located in front of what is today…a Costco. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it had a sushi bar, and I was captivated. My parents both grew up in rural (VERY rural) western North Carolina. So rural that there was no stop light in the nearby town of Green Creek. You can imagine that they grew up eating mostly classic Southern cooking. However, as adults they became very adventurous eaters. And so, the meals that my mom cooked for our family would take us around the world to places like France, Switzerland, Italy, and even Hawaii. And thus, I was rarely scared of trying a food that was new to me.

So, back to the Japanese steak house. When it came time to order our meals, I opted for sushi in lieu of one of the traditional steakhouse meals. I think that Stephen’s parents were a bit shocked. I do not have a specific recollection of exactly what I ordered, but I’m pretty sure that one of the items I tried was salmon nigiri. Perhaps that is why, to this day, salmon sashimi is one of my favorites.

And now back to the present…Recently, we met our friends, Roland & Tammy for dinner at Yamazaru, located on Hawkins Street in the heart of SouthEnd. They are fellow foodies, so we decided to try a restaurant that was new for all of us. Beth and I had happened upon Yamazaru accidentally when walking around SouthEnd one evening. And so, we suggested that as our meet up place. Yamazaru in Japanese means “be full.” And with an extensive menu, there is little chance that you will walk away not feeling full.

For this particular evening the four of us decided to order from the non-sushi portion of the menu. Outside of sushi there are 31 different appetizers, so I would consider the menu to be tapas-style. Our choices included the Pork Gyoza. Traditional gyoza is a flour-based Japanese dumpling which is traditionally filled with finely minced pork, mushroom, and cabbage. Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Ika Maruyaki which is grilled whole octopus - a very popular dish with many restaurants today, Tako Yaki (Fried octopus balls with Tonkatsu and Mayo sauce). Tonkatsu is a sauce made with a mixture of fruits, vegetables, spices, and vinegar with a balance of sweetness and sourness. We also had the Salmon Kama Yaki which is grilled salmon cheek w/salt.

{So let’s be serious for a minute. Who reading this review actually knows where the cheeks of a fish are? I certainly did not even though I have filet a lot at our family place on Lake Huron. The cheek of a fish is located just below or behind the eye depending on the fish species. Some chefs consider fish cheeks to be the tastiest and most tender part of a fish.}

We completed our order with Steam Bun which is grilled pork belly with vegetables, and Hamachi Jalapeno which is sliced fresh yellowtail, jalapeno slices, tobiko caviar, and yuzu ponzu sauce. We thought all of our dishes were very good.

About a month later while Beth was in Alabama spending time with our grandchildren, I decided to order off the sushi menu and have it delivered via Doordash. I ordered a Saru Hand Roll (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, green onion, masago- served Temaki style). [Masago are capelin fish eggs which are very small and orange in color. Temaki style is sometimes called a hand roll because it is made of a rolled cone of seaweed which is wrapped around rice and fillings]. A Crazy Horse Roll (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado, masago, soy paper), and the Krystal Rainbow Roll (no rice, tuna, salmon, hamachi [amberjack], crab salad, cucumber, lettuce, rolled w/rice paper, and yuzu ponzu). I thought all of these choices were excellent especially considering they were ordered via DoorDash.

Yamazaru is consistently included in Charlotte Observer, Charlotte’s Got A Lot and Axios Charlotte as one of the best sushi restaurants in the city. To me, that stands out because Charlotte has many sushi restaurants. Ordering takeout sushi can be risky, but overall I was very impressed with the quality and condition of my food once it arrived.

Would we go back? Absolutely! Would I order delivery again? You bet! Let me know if you venture to South End and try it out!

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