“I believe food is love, and love is beautiful,” says chef owner Nino Elgheryany, who opened Somo Kitchen and Sushi with his partner on July 1. “I don’t like ordinary things – I’m not really an ordinary person.”
Born in Egypt and having lived abroad in Japan, Elgheryany speaks five languages fluently – Arabic, Japanese, English, Italian, and French – making “no ordinary person” an understatement. “I’m doing everything on a different level, elevating Japanese American cuisine,” he says, which explains why we found burrata on the appetizer list at a sushi restaurant.
My friend Melissa and I began our evening on the patio of Somo sipping Frisky Ginger cocktails. I most enjoyed that each of the three ingredients – Suntory Japanese Whiskey, honey, and ginger beer – had a distinct moment on the palate: first the ginger, then the sweetness of honey, then the warmth-in-the-belly of the whiskey.
A few sips in is when we spotted the Burrata – an Italian cow milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream – served with charred peaches and grilled sourdough. An ingredient more typical of Italian or American restaurants, I asked Elgheryany about it. “We twist it to [make it] Japanese. The peach is marinated first in simple syrup and mirin before it’s grilled, otherwise it will burn. This way it gets
And he was right: these peaches tasted like the end of summer, with a multidimensional sweetness that complemented the rich, creamy burrata and sourdough.
We also tried the Edamame and Chicken Karaage appetizers. “I’ve never ordered edamame in a restaurant,” Melissa said. “It’s usually seasoned with salt, sitting in a pod. What’s the big deal? But this. This is amazing.”
The bright green edamame, piled high, was already shelled, served over hot honey chili, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. “I’m of the opinion,” Melissa added, “that sesame belongs on everything.” Dressed with a few strands of red chili pepper thread, this appetizer was sweet with a bit of spice.
The Chicken Karaage is made with dark meat and marinated for six hours in soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, and a bit of sake before breading and serving. These were lightly coated, unlike most chicken tenders, keeping the chicken juicy and full of flavor. The spicy aioli drizzled over the pieces was not too spicy, and very addicting. “Mouthwatering,” was all we could say before wiping the plate clean.
But these dishes were not to be outdone by the star of the evening: the Okinawa Night sushi plate and the signature Richmond St. roll. More than just top-quality taste, these were jaw-droppingly beautiful, the rice demanding attention in shades of fuchsia and purple, with pink dollops of honey aioli to garnish the plate.
“I love creation,” Elgheryany says. “I want to make the food look magnificent.”
His dedication to beauty, however, will not come at the cost of quality. Having spent so many years in Japan learning to prepare fish and cooking rice “the traditional way,” he experimented with several different fruit and flower blossom powders before settling on those that would color the rice without changing the texture or taste. Look for “dragon fruit rice” or “butterfly pea flower” on the menu if you want to eat with your eyes before your mouth.
It’s clear that the food at Somo is a labor of love. Says Elgheryany: “My bachelor’s degree might be in genetics, but my passion is Japanese cuisine.”
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