Nestled alongside the harbor in Fells Point, Nanami Cafe has one of Baltimore's better waterfront views — and some great sushi as well.
Of course, on a Friday or Saturday night, outside seating can be hard to come by. Thankfully, Nanami's interior is also inviting. At dusk, the restaurant's lime green walls are cheerfully lit, which gets you in a good mood for the food.
On a recent visit, our server was a bit of a grump. But that couldn't dampen our disposition — especially when the appetizers flew out of the kitchen in record time.
The Shrimp Gyoza ($4.40) was extremely hot and crisp, and, although the filling was a bit crumbly and not very shrimpy, it had a pleasant flavor. Dunked in its accompanying sauce of soy, vinegar, black and white sesame seeds and chili flakes, the Gyoza became as bright as the scenery.
The Crab Shumai ($4.50) was not as hot, temperature-wise, as the Gyoza, but just as good when combined with its dipping sauce. The trick with the Shumai was to be judicious with the sauce — a little too much drowned out the crab's delicate flavor.
Sake is the go-to drink while eating sushi, and the bottle of Hakushika Junmai Ginjo sake ($16) I had throughout the meal paired excellently with everything we ordered. The clean and clear-tasting sake is a wine made from rice grains that have been polished down to remove impurities.
The Asahi Super Dry beer ($4.25) was extremely light, didn't get in the way of the food and was incredibly drinkable. The drinks and appetizers piqued our appetites for the main courses.
After an annoying 30-minute wait while our server apparently helped out in the kitchen, leaving her customers unattended, we received our entrees. The handsome Josh Roll ($9.00) was a mix of yellowtail and cucumber wrapped in rice, topped with slices of avocado and dotted with sriracha sauce. The creaminess of the avocado was tempered by the freshness of the fish and cucumber, while a hint of heat from the sriracha brought up the rear. And, the way it was made, the roll kind of looked like a big caterpillar.
The Mark Roll ($8) was the favorite of the night. Spicy tuna teamed up with cucumber and salmon skin tempura for this maki-style roll. The middle ingredients were enveloped in rice, nori (seaweed) and a duo of sauces to create a great plate of food. The salmon skin played off the earthiness of the lettuce to give it a surf and turf feel. And the tuna lent just enough spice to let you know it was there. It would be hard to find a better bite of sushi than the end piece of this roll, which had crispy skin and less rice.
If you want to skip the rice and try fish without the frills, go for the Sashimi Sampler ($8). With its raw slices of salmon, red snapper and tuna, it's a great starting point for more adventurous eaters. The salmon was creamy and sweet, the snapper meaty and firm, and the tuna vivid. Don't forget to take small bites of pickled ginger as a palate cleanser in between fish so as not to mix the flavors.
Oddly, most of Nanami Cafe's desserts are Italian favorites like Tiramisu ($6.50) or Lemoncello Flute ($7). We went with the much more appropriate Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream ($2). Mochi, sticky rice paste, is wrapped around a dollop of fragrant green tea ice cream. The ice cream is, well, cold, but the mochi's chewy texture is interesting to eat.
As a laugh, we ordered the Kid's Bear ($4.00). It's a little bear face, with a head of chocolate gelato, a white chocolate face and dark chocolate ears. It was a surprisingly cute ending to a solid dinner.
Back-story: Situated in the space that once housed Kawasaki restaurant, Nanami has been serving sushi in Fells Point since 2008. With a great view of the water, it makes for a romantic destination for (sushi) lovers.
Parking: Like many city neighborhoods, depending on the time and day, parking in Fells Point can be tricky. You can pay to park along nearby Thames Street, and there is also a parking lot about two blocks away on Wolfe Street across from the Red Star.
Signature dish: The Mark Roll ($8), which has spicy tuna, cucumber and salmon skin tempura, was a hit. But if you're feeling adventurous and have some friends along, the Chef's Sushi Sashimi Boat ($55.00) would be a fantastic way to try a host of different types of sushi.
Where: 907 S. Ann St., Baltimore
Contact: 410-327-9400, nanamicafe.com
Open: 11:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Note: Nanami closes 2:30 p.m.-5:00pm Tuesday-Friday to prepare for dinner.
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]