I make the wife go to a lot of movies. I love movies. Love ’em. I love picking apart the bad ones and dissecting the good ones. My wife has undoubtedly seen countless films that she had no interest in because she loves me…and because I dragged her to them. As the best theatres to see movies happens to be at one of the more annoying places around the Nati, I feel like I am really piling on my poor wife with every film. In an attempt to not actually change anything about myself, but make the overall movie experience a bit more enjoyable for the wife, I figured let’s make it dinner and a movie. It’s like a really, really original date. I don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought of this before.
But where to go? Newport on the Levee is a real mix bag. There is a lot of crap down there. And as much as we love Dewey’s, you can only eat it so many times without turning into a giant doughball. In an attempt to find a new place to enjoy before the next summer blockbuster, we have started sampling the other restaurants on the Levee, beginning with the two sushi/Japanese joints, Pacific Moon and, today’s review, Aoi.
To give Aoi the full treatment the wife and I ordered a number of different dishes and shared the whole lot of them. We started with a dry sake, suggested by the waiter, served hot, that was as good a sake as I have had, though I am a neophyte in the sake world and my palate is only beginning to notice the differences in all the ones we have tried. We started our meal with a tempura calamari off of the specials menu. As I have stated before, if calamari is on the menu, I am trying it, and I liked the idea of the tempura twist. I was not disappointed. The calamari may have been just the slightest bit underdone, but it tasted very fresh and the tempura coating had good flavor and was not heavy at all. An excellent start to our meal.
Next out, was our sushi. We kept it simple, working under the assumption that if a restaurant is any good it should be able to do the basics very well, ordering a basic tuna roll and a spicy tuna roll. Neither was the tightest roll, but I half felt this was on purpose. The quality of every ingredient, however, was exceptional. Perfectly cooked rice with the slightest hint of vinegar meshing well with the salty sweetness of the wrap, and both serving as excellent accompaniments to ample portions of the freshest tuna we have had in town. The aioli on the spicy roll was good; spicy, but not overpowering.
We finished up our meal sharing a plate of beef and asparagus in a ginger sauce. Again, everything was cooked to perfection. It is easy to overcook stirfried beef, but here it was tender and juicy. The asparagus was fresh and crispy. The ginger sauce was appropriately subtle, as ginger could easily overpower beef and asparagus, but was always present, dancing around in the corners of your mouth and lingering happily after every bite (I know that last sentence was ridiculous, but that is really what it was like). It was a perfect way to finish the meal.
A note on the decor: pleasing; not overbearing or out of place (I am looking at you Pacific Moon).
A note on the service: absolutely fantastic! Our waiter was one of the nicest waiters my wife and I have ever had, in our lives together or before. Helpful, never in your face, unbelievably courteous. This guy should teach proper waiting techniques.
Our first attempt at making the movie experience a more well-rounded affair began with Aoi and should probably end there. We had a great time with wonderful food, and what do you know, Ironman was a pretty decent flick to boot.