Spicy tuna and crunchy smoked salmon rolls at Sushi House Hayakawa.
Spicy tuna and crunchy smoked salmon rolls at Sushi House Hayakawa.

By Megan Volpert

Sushi House Hayakawa is tucked into a strip mall on Buford Highway east of Dunwoody and northeast of Doraville, and seats about 30 people. You make reservations. Sometimes when you try, they thank you for calling and politely inform you that they are full this week. My wife and I risked the walk-in.

We were first on the list because we arrived as soon as they unlocked the door, so we were promptly seated and also informed that we could have the table for about 90 minutes before the smarter people who responsibly made reservations well in advance would come to claim their prize. They are very nice at Hayakawa, but their policies are extremely firm. This includes their ban on cellphones. I was granted permission to take pictures of the food, but when I pushed to snap one of Atsushi Hayakawa himself, I was denied.

Blue crab miso soup.

Some days he just wants to work; some days he wants to entertain. He knows there are a million places to get sushi in metro Atlanta.

Take your loud crew of coworkers to one of those others. He enjoys vegans, but won’t accommodate any customer who may compromise the quality of his work. He can fill his 30 seats every night without compromise, and he prefers to fill them with people who are not rude or naive.

We started with the blue crab miso soup. It was a light broth that conveyed the delicate taste of crab right up front. They put the whole crab in it, standing up on one side as both a glorious garnish and a delectable treat. Then we had the nikujaga stew, a special of the week. Fat of the pork belly rises to coat the mouth, pairing perfectly with starch rising off the potatoes.

The deliberate equanimity of the portion was impressive – a precise count on all elements of the dish so that we didn’t have to fight over the last luscious bite.

And then the fish! My wife likes to order two rolls, and I always get the omakase sashimi.

Omakase sashimi

The rolls are garnished sideways, indicating a presumption that the diner knows how to pick up a piece the right way. Everything comes with a side of real ginger, not the pink stuff.

At $85, the omakase sashimi is unquestionably the best bang for your buck. It’s 32 pieces of top shelf: giant sweet shrimp with head still on, scallops from Hayakawa’s home town, plus a mountain of the usual suspects. The cuts are surprisingly thick given the number of pieces. Even the octopus was cut wide to add an extra sucker on the tentacle, where all the best flavor is hiding.

As long as you’re spending that kind of money on protein, spend an extra couple dollars for legit wasabi, glowing a deep green and freshly grated into an abalone shell. Don’t spoil excellent raw fish with a side of processed horseradish imitation.

Black sesame mocha ice cream and yuzu citron kanten jelly.

Many people mistakenly skip dessert at a sushi bar. We had black sesame mochi ice cream, which can feed any chocolate demons, plus I love that odd little skin covering the ice cream nugget. We doubled down with yuzu citron kanten, because yuzu is the ultimate refreshment fruit and it was a perfect palate cleanser.

If you can’t afford a pilgrimage to Sukiyabashi Jiro in Japan, go to Sushi House Hayakawa. Atsushi Hayakawa is a true master.

Most likely, he does not appreciate the extra publicity generated by this review. He cares only for kizuna, the bond between people formed by the exercise of his incredible skills meeting the welcome of his art into our bellies. Go there to be educated and then go back many times to pay respect. When your bond is strong enough, he will let you know. They love regulars, not tourists. Once, he even visited our table. It was a great honor.

Sushi House Hayakawa is located at 5979 Buford Highway. For more information visit atlantasushibar.com. For reservations call (770) 986-0010.

Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.