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And while I'm not sure what role buffalo mozzarella ever played in the emperor's palace, I love Fuduka's treatment. He sends out a beautiful plate stacked with ripe organic tomatoes, milky firm cheese, tender sliced octopus, frizzles of red onion, a slather of wasabi aioli, plus a drizzle of citrus and vintage olive oil, centered by peppery micro arugula and robust grape tomatoes.
One simple summary of Sea Saw is: rich. It easily takes three full dinners to work though the 14 tiny tapas plates -- all shared by two, even -- each prepared before our eyes by Fuduka, working his art in a tiny kitchen in the center of the sushi bar. Heed his suggestions: When he recommends ending a meal with sushi foie gras instead of mixing it in the middle, he knows of what he speaks. This Lilliputian plate knocks us out with its sweet-salty intensity, the silky, plump nubbins of liver marinated in miso, pan-seared, and fashioned into little rolls with rice, nori and sugary-tart Japanese mountain berries served alongside.
I'm also looking forward to when Fuduka rolls out some of his starring characters from Hapa -- the exotic oyster trios; the tuna with diced Fuji apples and pine nuts; barbecued eel and avocado layered with sushi rice on a pool of port wine, honey and soy. He's hard at work creating his omakase menu, too. For the time being, he assures me, I can call 48 hours in advance and he'll have it ready.
7133 E. Stetson Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Region: Central Scottsdale
480-481-9463. Hours: Dinner, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
There are new baby stumbles, certainly. In its infancy, Sea Saw isn't quite up to the level Fuduka maintained at Hapa Sushi. Quality is just as good, drama is just as delightful, but the menu is splayed too heavily toward redundant flavors -- lots of herbed oils over thinly sliced fish. Sea bream sashimi with green onion, kanzuri oil and ponzu dip competes with whitefish carpaccio in ginger, sesame seeds, yuzu juice (sour fruit) and roasted garlic oil, which isn't so dramatically different from seared tuna with heavy Pinot Noir reduction and a delectable roast beet purée. All excellent, but making for a bit of a challenge to craft a full, diverse meal from the current selections.
Several combinations come out more weird than delicious. A bowl of flash-fried whole shrimp, for example, is parched under a dry dusting of miso and potato starch, overpowered by powdered curry mixed into a salad of sweet papaya slaw. Gravlax doesn't work either, a busy, truly harsh offering of strong cured salmon topped with aggressively sharp shaved Pecorino Romano and served over a brilliant green puddle of in-your-face basil oil/balsamic vinegar reduction studded with bitter (burned) toasted almonds.
I love traditional sushi, and I enjoy a comfortable read of mainstream fiction like Pet Sematary. But there's plenty of room in the repertoire, too, for plot twists like the wild, crazy, complicated fantasia that is Sea Saw.