Finding a Pearl of a Lunch Spot at the Inner Harbor
The widely admired Edo Sushi has opened its first downtown location, on the second level of Harborplace’s Pratt Street Pavilion. Unlike another new Harborplace addition, the overstuffed Tír Na Nóg, the new Edo makes smart use of the pavilion’s airy architectural lines and the enduringly captivating harbor views. The gloomy geisha kitsch that afflicts so many other local sushi joints is absent here—the space feels contemporary but not aggressively so, with shiny black surfaces, warm wood, and translucent screens.
Traditional seating facing the sushi chefs is available, but a more comfortable perch is the long, curving bar that extends out from there to the entrance. It has plenty of room for the inevitable accumulation of appetizers, dishes, dipping bowls, implements, and other vessels that can make sushi dining feel so cramped and awkward. There’s even room to unfold a newspaper, which suggests that Edo could become a favorite lunch destination of downtown workers in search of some midday relaxation.
A lunch-only sushi-and-sashimi combination ($16.95) convincingly demonstrates why Edo, which also has restaurants in Timonium and Owings Mills, has such an ardent following. Presented on a rectangular white platter and decorated with cunning artistic touches—a sprig of parsley positioned in a rosy cordial glass, a waterfall of snowy white radish—this display popped with intensely dramatic and fresh colors. The four nigiri—tuna, salmon, flounder, and white tuna—were models of balance and precision. It’s unpleasant when nigiri falls apart as it is inverted for dipping, but Edo’s rice kept its form beautifully, remaining in full contact with the fish until the moment of impact. The fish itself displays the sheen and vibrancy of freshness. The flounder was as smooth as cream, the tunas gloriously buttery. The spicy tuna mako roll chosen for this platter was well-formed and tongue-teasing, and the slices of sashimi were so thick yet pliable that $16.95 began to feel like a bargain. Edo’s miso soup, which comes with the combo, was exemplary, too, full-bodied, nourishing, and served in a handsome earthenware bowl (plastic rules at other places.)
Subsequent visits to Edo Sushi were more than satisfying, but the restaurant didn’t always maintain that high-voltage charge it scored with that first brush. There was, for instance, a misstep with one of the 16 special maki offered on the menu—special maki being where sushi restaurants distinguish themselves. Edo’s printed menu includes vivid photographs of its concoctions, which partly dilutes presentation’s “ah” factor, but are helpful in choosing among them. Edo’s crystal maki ($14.95) rolls up spicy white tuna and avocado and tops them with sprinklings of red ikura (salmon roe) and black tobiko (flying fish roe). The chefs achieved some verticality by placing a few maki on an inverted soup bowl, a cheap effect. Overall, the dish lacked the crystal precision its name promised, although the roll itself benefited from superbly fresh avocado and good, fatty white tuna, which is actually a mild and sweet fish known as escolar.
A spicy scallop maki ($5.75) from the tick-off list was somewhat inert. For one thing, it wasn’t spicy, which is usually achieved by joining the scallops with spices within the roll. The spice here is a monkey dish of sauce, reminiscent of Russian dressing, provided for dipping—an unlucky choice.
Choices from the kitchen were more fortunate. A handsomely arranged appetizer of shrimp and vegetable tempura ($8.95) delighted with crisp and colorful vegetables—a sliver of sweet white onion held its translucency and crunch under the batter’s light breading. Eggplant, a rare addition on tempura platters, kept itself warm and creamy. Wasabi shumai ($5.95) is a must—savory pork meat enclosed in pretty green wasabi-flavored wrappings that deliver their horseradish punch at the very last moment on the tongue.
Edo’s yakitori skewers are ideal cocktail snacks. A combined order of beef ($4), mushrooms ($3) and bacon with scallion ($4) were delivered together in a presentation that rivaled Edo’s best sushi platters. The marinated beef was warm and very tender, the bacon impressively fatty, but the mushrooms were the triumph—dark, woody flavors with a hint of balsamic marinade.
The multinational staff here is friendly but not always enthusiastic or even fully informed about individual menu items, which is surprising for such a new restaurant, when you’d expect more intensive training. Quietly inflating bills are the norm at sushi restaurants—it’s a good idea to make a first visit to Edo at lunchtime, when the lower-priced menu is available. But do go.