Naoki Japanese Cuisine- Palm Bay- 4 stars
Just off of Dixie Hwy. in Palm Bay is a restaurant completely out of place anywhere these days, or so it would seem, but especially here on the Space Coast of Florida. I am talking about Naoki Japanese Cusine which is located almost due east of F.I.T. near the river. The reason I say that Naoki is out of place is that the owner/chef is a throwback to a more innocent time. It was the summer of 1983 if I recall correctly when my favorite Uncle took me out to eat sushi for the first time in my life. I literally sat there and watched him eat a whole wooden plate full of "bait" before I could work up the courage to take a wee nibble on a tuna roll. My eyes lit up and my taste buds jumped for joy, what was this nectar of the gods my uncle had me eat? I dove in head first and have never looked back. To this day fresh raw fish is some of my favorite food. Period.
Sadly, the place my uncle took me to that day in Satellite Beach has gone the way of many traditional Sushi restaurants, they have long closed. Naoki is from the Meguro Prefecture of Tokyo, where, one assumes, he received his masterful sushi instruction. His demeanor immediately brought me back to that day in Kyoto's, Naoki is very traditional. In a day when most Sushi places are not, it felt like I had slipped on my favorite pair of baggies, or back in time to the 80s. In fact, it was so good and sat so right with my chi, that I had to go back a second time..the very next day.
On my first excursion into Chef Naoki's eating establishment, I was served by one Anastasia. She was prompt, courteous, on point and everything one would expect in a classic Japanese restaurant (exceedingly polite). For my second foray into Naoki's, I chose to sit at the bar to get a feel for the owner/chef, Naoki himself. Being, as I mentioned before, very traditional, he kind of has the personality of a bucket of salted peanuts; however, he does tend to loosen up a tad as the meal progresses. Over the course of my two visits I ordered: Whelk and Albacore Nigiri, a Kamakura Roll, a Naoki Special Roll and a fried oyster (I know, I think it's sacrilegious to order cooked food in a Sushi place as well, but some people still don't like raw fish for a meal). Everything was exceptionally fresh and beautifully presented. However, what really struck me was the freshness and flavor of chef Naoki's Karami sauce used with the Kamakura Roll. He must make this fresh daily as the mango was perfectly textured and bursting with succulent scrumptiousness. The giant sea oyster was lightly covered in tempura and fried to a perfect golden brown. It was crunchy on the outside and bursting with freshness on the inside, it literally squirts in your mouth like a raw oyster should. The only thing that precluded me giving Naoki a 5-star review is I went to a different place as well...that review forthcoming!!
Big Boy says, "If you are within 50 miles and hunkerin' for some tasty bait, head on over to Naoki's, you'll be glad you did." P.S. I also hear their Ramen is top notch as well (maybe next time).