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Sushi, above all other food types, is art. A good sushi dining experience starts from the minute you walk through the door, and it awakens and enlivens all the senses. The best sushi I have eaten involves visiting clean yet atmospheric restaurants, traditional Japanese music and the exceptional service where each customer is treated like a Japanese emperor. Then comes the food - amazingly fresh, inventively made and exquisitely presented.
It was thus with high expectations that I received an invitation to Jerusalem's newest and most talked about addition to its growing and vibrant sushi scene. Sushi Bar at the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel on King George Street is the brainchild of Chef Shalom Kadosh, a Jerusalem dining slalwart who has been Executive Chef at the hotel for the best part of 20 years. For this new venture he has enlisted the help of a sushi master who hails from Japan via the United States - Chef Yama Oyamada - to create Jerusalem's first Glatt kosher sushi.
The food at Sushi Bar certainly reflects Master Yama's intensive training in his homeland, and the whole experience really does revolve around the chef. A great sushi experience rests with the sushi master behind the counter, who in addition to preparing sushi, must make his customers feel special. A good sushi master observes his customers' eating habits, making softer pieces for those who eat with the fingers, firmer ones for chopstick users so that a piece doesn't fall apart when it is dipped in soy sauce. Oyamada must therefore have "observed" my hunger, as the platter that arrived on my table was huge, and each piece of sushi had a really high percentage of fish to rice, something I rarely find in Jerusalem.
The selection of dishes on offer was large and reflected the ready availability of fish in the region, as well as combining Oyamada's love for traditional sushi with a few more original dishes. The sushi wrapped in half melted Mozzarella cheese was definitely not to my taste. Whilst I got the feeling the whole idea of the dish offended Oyamada's traditions, he cheerfully noted that this dish was a big hit in the US and was proving to be the same over here in Israel.
I would like to say that Chef Kadosh and Master Yama have created a wonderful, authentic eatery here in Jerusalem, but the truth is that the Sushi Bar has a number of flaws, not least that it is situated in the lobby of the hotel. Master Yama's prodigious talents deserve more than such a location and I could not really enjoy my meal being surrounded by noisy Israelis walking past on their cellphones, loud Americans eating sandwiches at nearby tables and a cold breeze which encouraged me to keep my jacket on.
The price was also a problem - my two courses came to over NIS 200. For that much money I could have had a three course Italian meal in the hotel's delightful Primavera restaurant with change in my pocket.
Overall I cannot make my mind up about this new restaurant and that is at least in part because the quality of the food and the obvious talent of Master Yama were so high. His masterful arts deserve to be placed on a pedestal and admired but unfortunately a hotel lobby is not the place do so.
Sushi Bar is located at the Plaza Jerusalem Hotel, 47 King George Street. Open Sunday - Thursday from 12:30 pm - 10:30 pm Friday from 12:30 pm - one hour before Shabbat. Closed Shabbat and Saturday night. (02) 629-3019. Kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.