Ok, so I have to gush, y’all. I just love blogging about town. I am currently curled up in the end booth at The Belmont on Upper King (enjoying my water after last night’s borderline debauchery) and Mickey was kind enough to let me connect to their Wi-Fi. I swear to god, I really don’t know why I ever go to another bar in this city. This place has the best music (currently Nina Simone is crooning), the best drinks (OMG Hampton Park), and the absolute best bar staff. They could not be any friendlier or more worthy of praise. Seriously, guys, well done. I will continue to come to this place until the end of time as long as I can get the Hampton Park or Laughing Countess.
So I decided to walk to work today. Yes, it was hot as hell earlier because, well, it’s August and occasionally that happens. Welcome to America, it gets hot in the summer. Regardless, I was walking home today when I realized that I was hungry. I walked into a place that is normally good for after-work dinner and promptly walked right back out. I will absolutely not name the place because that’s not fair and I normally have fabulous experiences there. I will say that it smelled unappealing and it’s really needless to elaborate on it much more. It was unwarranted for a place that I was about to eat in.
Then I remembered O-Ku. I forgot how much I like that restaurant. Maybe it’s their atmosphere:
Or maybe it’s their adorable chefs at the sushi bar.
Whatever the reason, the interior aesthetic is sexy, date-night dinner. It has that exclusive air of “leave the kids at home” while still being approachable enough for me to sit up at the bar by myself on a Monday night. While I don’t recall the bartender’s name, she was absolutely adorable. She claims that she is there between 4-5 nights a week and was friendly, knowledgeable about the entire menu, and a fellow yankee. I really am uspet that I don’t recall her name off the top of my head because she was so pleasant, such a welcome change from my experience out last night. Unfortunately, I arrived about 40 minutes after their amazing happy hour special had ended (which is awesome by the way. It entails getting half off every roll on the menu on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5-7pm). She recommended several sushi rolls and I ended up going with one of her recommendations and one that sounded appetizing to me. The firecracker roll was her choice and I thought I’d try the eel wrapped roll.
The eel was good but holy cats that firecracker roll was spicy and had so much complexity it was astounding. Spicy, crunchy, sweet, warm all at the same time and with such a broad flavor profile that I could taste just about every note in every bite. Don’t get me wrong, the eel roll was delicious but it tasted almost pedestrian compared to the firecracker roll. This isn’t a bad thing because it tasted so fresh and had such a nice smoky and sweet flavor like most eel rolls have a tendency to but the crunchiness of the firecracker just woah. I haven’t even told you what’s in it, that’s the best part: crab salad, avocado, asparagus roll tempura with spicy tuna, salmon, whitefish topped with Serrano pepper and eel sauce. I was a little put off by the description but I guess I should have just listened to her from the start because it was a great recommendation.
Oh, and the chef sent out a little nibble too.
Apparently the chef’s mother made her signature garlic kimchee. The chef wanted to feature it on a little morsel of scallop sashimi and holy mother of god. Toasty on the top, wonderfully raw in the middle and the kimchee was, not shockingly, the best part. It was kind of sweet and spicy and garlicky all at once and it gave the scallop a punch that was much warranted. I’m sure my breath is awful right now but I honestly don’t care. I could have another 7 of these right now.
Overall, in terms of the upscale sushi market in Charleston, I feel like O-Ku stands alone. I haven’t found anyone that can touch them in terms of quality of food, sexiness of atmosphere, and level of service. They pour a fabulous cocktail, serve up some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, and do it with a smile on their faces. I really don’t see what else you could possibly want for a night out.