The eyes have it at Yume Sushi in Arlington near East Falls Church. Rocking the wall behind the counter of the youthful Japanese restaurant is a mural that’s equal parts graffiti and elegance — streaks and smudges of red, blue and yellow paint sharing space with a larger-than-life geisha and a flock of origami cranes.
Two of us arrive on a busy Saturday night, happy to have reserved seats. The lone remaining stools at the sushi counter are for us. Some help with the sake list, please? A server produces an iPad with descriptions of bottles we’re considering and moments later, we’re sipping clean, crisp Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi sake and tucking into some small plates. Threads of cucumber splashed with a pink ginger dressing and garnished with glassy seaweed noodles are a nice way to settle in, as is pleasantly chewy baby octopus, red as a candy apple.
Yume translates from Japanese as “dream” and finds chef and co-owner Saran “Peter” Kannasute, 39, living out the fantasy of a restaurant of his own. A native of Thailand, he last worked with raw fish at the Sushi Bar in Alexandria.
The chef and his crew are studies in motion as they assemble rolls and sushi. I wish they would take time to cut the fish in trimmer portions and season the rice so that its vinegar were more evident. No one will mistake this for Sushi Taro. Freshwater eel is glazed as if by a pastry chef with a heavy hand. Better: salmon belly, its lushness visible in its white veins of fat. The best-selling Dream roll is a cluster of soy paperbound bites of shrimp and avocado supporting a dollop of fiery minced tuna. If the combination doesn’t live up to its name, it’s at least acceptable.
A few days later, I’m back to try the omakase, a tasting of seven dishes chosen by the chef. The night begins oddly. My companion has beaten me to the restaurant, where a server brings out two bowls of miso soup even though she’s been told I’m still en route.
Much of what follows involves fancy ingredients foisted on one another, as in monkfish liver topped with sea urchin topped with salmon roe, a blandly rich-on-rich-on-rich little tower rising from a pool of chile yuzu sauce thickened with (too much) quail egg. Kannasute cold-smokes salmon with lavender flowers; the first slice is intriguing, while more just brings to mind potpourri. Shaved wagyu beef with the texture of raw bacon is draped on a round of rice encircled with what looks like chocolate sauce but turns out to be black pepper mixed with balsamic vinegar, Japanese soy sauce and truffle oil, an ingredient used with abandon here. No thanks.
The course proving less is more follows my tepid soup: near-translucent folds of Japanese yellowtail painted with a chile yuzu sauce. The fine crackle is courtesy of three kinds of sea salt sprinkled over the fish.
To close, there’s a choice of ice cream (green tea or honey-ginger) served between halves of a Japanese sweet bun. “Press down,” says Kannasute. We do as directed, creating chewy ice cream sandwiches.
As dishes come and go, their mode of transport interests me most; the plates and bowls at Yume Sushi are beautiful.
Like I said, the eyes have it here. The palate? Not so much.
2121 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington, Va. 703-269-5064. yumesushiva.com. Sushi and rolls, $2 to $9; omakase (chef’s tasting), $85.