Telephone (21) 2541 4294
Metrô Cardeal Arcoverde
Just upon walking in to Azumi, the sensation that something special is in store creeps up on you. A casual Japanese waiter grabs the door with a big smile, the affable owner welcomes you in, and the counter is alive with chatting diners and, of course, headband-sporting sushi chefs. Sushi Leblon this certainly is not, but the less-is-more approach to the sparse, multi-level dining room is a perfect reflection of the majority of the menu.
Downstairs in the main dining room the menus are poured over, the lack of natural light ignored whilst upstairs is a second kitchen and two bamboo-screened spaces with tables mere inches off the ground circled with cushions. The piles of shoes outside offer the only discernible evidence that anybody is actually within, such is the lack of noise from the dedicated diners, a good sign for the kitchen.
The tried and tested starter of a Kirin beer (R$16) and full bowl of edamami limbers up the palate nicely while the amount of miso soup (R$10) flying around suggests its clearly a bit of a speciality. A strong recommendation came in the form of the Ika sautée (R$45, pictured), proof were it needed that Japanese cuisine doesn’t have to start and finish with a sharp knife and still-breathing fish. Perfect pan-fried squid and shiitake mushrooms topped with hunks of asparagus in a sizzling pan is a delight and the accompanying Shiromi Bainiku (R$45) tempura – a unique recipe to Azumi according to the beaming waitress – is light and fresh.
Udon noodle soup (R$45) with chicken, shrimp and mushrooms is another warming sensation, classically prepared and the steam of authenticity emanating from within. Traditional sushi combinados (R$22-$185) couple together yellow tail, flounder and sea bass among the predictably excellent salmon and tuna, made all the more appealing with an overflowing cup of national sake (R$18-$28) by the side.
The simplicity of Azumi doesn’t mean that the prices are any less stiff than the other, more famous names in Asian cuisine in Leblon or Jardim Botânico. Anybody pining fuss-free Japanese cuisine, however, will be thrilled with the extensive menu, and the private rooms merely complete the experience with a collective of like-minded souls.