Upscale sushi spot Saito will open downtown later this month

Master Chef Saito promises a high-end experience with steaks and rare Japanese whiskey

Sushi master chef Saito Saito at work

Courtesy of Saito

Sushi master Saito Saito has opened more than 30 restaurants around the world, from London and Paris to New York City. Originally from Fukushima, Japan, Saito is known for incorporating tropical fruit into his sushi and importing fresh, high-end fish from Hawaii, New Zealand, Japan, and Italy. He’s partnered with Stephen de Haan of Red Phone Booth and formerly of the Andrews Entertainment District, to bring his namesake restaurant downtown.

Opening in mid-January in the historic Department Building (19 Andrew Young International Boulevard Northeast), Saito will feature steaks and cocktails as well as maki and sashimi. The duo hope to attract a mix of tourists, businesspeople, and locals. Saito stresses that his restaurant will demand an upscale presence; reservations are recommended, and diners will not permitted to wear shorts, hats, or sneakers.

“I love the old buildings,” de Haan says. “The interior will play on that, with art deco light fixtures. We’ll be utilizing the glamour of the decor of the past.”

Cabbage skin with spicy tuna and mango sauce

Courtesy of Saito

Saito Sushi Laser Cut Seaweed
Laser-cut seaweed rolls

Courtesy of Saito

Saito will helm the sushi bar, preparing delicacies such as live scallops, Norwegian salmon, Japanese sea urchin, and Hawaiian red tuna. He adds tropical fruit to both reflect his heritage and encourage people to eat healthily, he says. An example is lobster and mango maki with banana sauce.

Steak will be sold by the ounce, with wagyu and Kobe beef flown in from Japan and cooked on Japanese lava rocks. Lunch menus will be available, too, with similar options to dinner but in smaller portions.

Expect five-to-six-course omakase dinners costing $150 per person. Omakase reservations will need to be made a couple of weeks in advance.

De Haan will lead the bar program, working with Leo de Rivera (of Red Phone Booth) on 25 cocktails made with Japanese ingredients such as shiso and yuzu, as well as American classics. There will be an international wine list with about 20 wines, primarily offered by the glass. The beer list will feature a combination of local brews, including Cherry Street Brewing, and Asian imports. Sake flights will also be available.

Rare Japanese whiskies will be served over ice that has gone through double-reverse osmosis, a special filtration process. The idea, de Haan says, is to create the cleanest, clearest ice possible to allow guests to focus on the flavor of the whiskey.

“The No. 1 ingredient in any cocktail anywhere in the world is the ice,” de Haan explains. “We get a 300-pound block. It’s what you’d see in a glimmering ice sculpture.”