Review: Kabuki Sushi & Fusion in Ballwin

During the Edo period of Japanese imperial history, Kabuki was the name for the popular theater of the working class, marked by stylized movements and striking makeup. At Kabuki Sushi & Fusion, the artful food and modest prices speak to the avant-garde theater for which it was named.

The Set
A traditional sushi bar doubled as a counter for ordering gargantuan chocolate-tinis, Bud Light bottles and a few decent sakes. The subtle, modern décor was relaxing, but it’s tough to shake the feeling that you’re inside a Ballwin strip mall.

kabuki sushi & fusion // photo by jonathan gayman

The Plot
In a world that throws around the word “fusion” all too often, Kabuki’s menu exemplifies it – melding various ingredients and cooking techniques of Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, China and Peru.

Jo: introducing the audience to the characters
Act 1:

Tiradito The striped bass tiradito epitomized such fusion – blending the process of “cooking” fish with the acid of fruit juice and mild salt from Peru and the ceviche tradition of cubing fish introduced by the Spanish. Japanese immigrants applied sashimi and sushi cutting techniques to local Peruvian sea bass. Kabuki’s mildly seasoned tiradito featured masterfully sliced striped bass on a colorfully pooled interplay between bright green chive oil and delicate, citrusy yuzu sauce. The dish popped with bright orange tobiko (aka flying fish roe).

striped bass tiradito // photo by jonathan gayman

Act 2:
Spicy baked New Zealand mussels Equally as applause-worthy, these large mussels were sprinkled with scallions and a dollop of an evocatively spicy mayonnaise, gently baked, and finished with bright orange masago roe.

Ha: culmination of events
Act 3:

Sushi From the exquisite knife skills displayed on the red snapper, scallop and mackerel nigiri to the artful presentation, the sushi was stunning. Some was plated atop bright green banana leaves, others perched inside tiny nests of fresh radish curls. A salmon avocado roll was beautifully marbled with a gorgeous pale orange hue, its meaty elegance wrapped in nori.

sea urchin shooter // photo by jonathan gayman

Act 4:
The drama Adventurous palates should try the sea urchin shooter. Mimicking a classic ceviche shooter, this decadent shot paired sea urchin with chilled sake and a beautiful, creamy quail egg.

Act 5:
The chorus Salads and soups gave stellar performances, with standouts like the beautiful Sunomono salad. Mild, approachable and cleanly dressed with light rice wine vinegar, the salad showcased Chinese cucumbers that slid down a mandoline, sliced Japanese seaweed and a bounty of assorted, steamed sea creatures.

sunomono salad // photo by jonathan gayman

Kyu (final bow)
If you’re smart, you’ll end your meal with the mochi – frozen Japanese rice dumplings filled with ice cream – and pick the sweet-savory blend of green tea and red bean. The dumplings, pale in color, were quartered and crowned with whipped cream and a sprig of basil that was refreshing and satiating to the palate.

THE TAKEAWAY: By the time the curtain fell – we mean, the check arrived – we wanted to give the whole meal a standing ovation. While it was hard to forget the strip mall setting, Kabuki’s food was beautiful to the eye, pleasing to the palate and well worth the price of a ticket.