By Megan Volpert
There are a few decent sushi spots in Decatur, but sometimes only one of us is in the mood for fresh fish. What about when I want some serious grilled meat, while my wife is refusing to eat anything other than a spicy tuna roll? I’m not going to swing by Chick-fil-A and then walk into the sushi place with my side of greasy goodness.
The other problem is we go out for sushi often enough that it doesn’t really feel special anymore. If you’ve already spent a few lazy evenings in your pajama pants on the patio at the local sushi joint, you’ll be hard pressed to ever look at that restaurant as date night material ever again. How can I keep it classy, but still have good sushi? I’m not getting in to Himitsu at the last minute, and in any case, Decatur is just a $7 Uber ride away. After dinner, we might like to go for a stroll before heading home, too.
Enter Brush Sushi Izakaya. Some people have complained that it’s too expensive and that Decatur is already full of decent sushi. It’s true that this place is more expensive than other nearby places; save it for date night or when you’ve got visiting in-laws to wrangle. Brush will especially please your father-in-law, who notoriously subsists on steak and baked potatoes. This is because Brush is not really a sushi place.
Brush is a Japanese gastropub specializing in yakitori. Gastropub: snacks and plates somewhat bigger than what we think of as tapas, but still smaller than a full entrée and usually meant for sharing. Yakitori: skewers upon skewers of grilled chicken parts that are delicious and not very greasy. Also, kushikatsu: skewers more heavily seasoned and breaded than yakitori. All skewers runs from $2.50 to $6, with a chef’s choice mixed plate at $18 to $20. Eaters new to this type of grilling can stick to wings and thighs, maybe a little pork belly. More adventurous eaters can hit the heart, neck, cartilage, and other items that are comparatively rare. You don’t see a lot of conservationist whole-bird butchering in Atlanta.
There are some things on the menu that are gaining in popularity right now. The house chashu rice with soy-cured yolk and seared pork belly will satisfy folks who usually stick to the safety of ramen or fried rice. There’s a nice rice-less poke (fish salad) of tuna, salmon, avocado and house chili oil that was thoroughly flavorful without going overboard into spicy territory. For those who do enjoy more spicy food, they have a yellowtail jalapeno that I’d put up against Umi’s. While Umi lays a pepper slice right on the fish, Brush does it as a puree that looks just as lovely while thankfully distributing the heat more evenly.
With the ramen renaissance in our city, from Nexto to Jinya, Atlanta will need to be increasingly discerning about the broadly competitive field of Asian cuisines. At a minimum, our vocabulary needs to get somewhat beyond edamame, nigiri and omakase. The dish that will keep Brush in the running for top tier dining in this regard is definitely the snow crab chawanmushi. Chawanmushi: a hot or cold egg custard. Brush’s version arrives steaming in a gorgeous clay pot. The silky custard is wonderfully delicate and the snow crab is evident throughout. Between the pop of the ikura (salmon caviar) and the umami (savory taste) of the Shimeji mushrooms, Brush’s snow crab chawanmushi is one of the best ways to spend $9 in Decatur.
From the heavy metal chopsticks to the legit wasabi, there’s good reason for this place to cost a little more money. For all its decadent notes, Brush is butchering in a sustainable way and plating food with such minimalism that there is really zero waste here. Many people additionally suffer from a general problem of restraint when it comes to small plates. Fortunately, the grilled food makes for great leftovers either standing alone or thrown into a casserole. Brush Sushi Izakaya is a great way to up your Asian food game without sacrificing the comfort dishes you already love.
Brush Sushi Izakaya, 316 Church St., Decatur, 30030. For more, visit brushatl.com or call (678) 949-9412.
Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture.