Such Sushi Selection
Atami Sushi Japanese Buffet
19-11 Francis Lewis Blvd, Whitestone
Cuisine: Japanese, Chinese
Hours: Lunch, Mon-Sat, 11:30 am-4 pm; Dinner Mon-Thu, 4:30-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 4:30-10:30 pm; Sun & Holidays, noon to 10 pm
Credit Cards: All Major
There are few places in the world outside of the Pacific Rim where you can find real authentic Asian cuisine – not Chinese takeout or mass produced sushi. Northeast Queens is one of those places.
And on Francis Lewis Boulevard there is a restaurant where one can explore nearly every option in Asian cuisine from hibachi to sushi to authentic Chinese desserts you won’t find anywhere else. Atami Japanese Sushi Buffet, located near the intersection of Francis Lewis and Willets Point Boulevards in Whitestone, is not a typical Japanese restaurant. It combines Japanese cuisine with some authentic Chinese dishes that are nothing like the ones you get at your local takeout.
I came to Atami on a Saturday evening around 6 p.m., a half hour after its dinner buffet opened. I was given a taste of all of Atami’s choices – some hibachi, some sushi, and some of the buffet. At the buffet table, I tried the General Tso’s Chicken, which was cooked perfectly and glazed in a sweet sauce. I also tried the tasty lo mein soaked in a tangy sauce and a lobster claw smothered in a delicious buttery cream preparation. The buffet also has a wide range of options that change over time, so whenever you come back, the dishes are new.
I started with a tall – and I do mean tall – glass of lychee iced tea. A traditional Chinese fruit, lychee has a mango-like flavor. Little pieces of the fruit lie on the bottom of the glass, giving you a wonderful little snack once you finish the beverage.
I tried the Tuna tartar, a dish of raw tuna arranged like a pate. If you don’t care for fishy tastes, you’ll love this. There is barely a hint of fish. The meat is chilled, though difficult to eat with a fork. I suggest chopsticks – or a spoon if you’re not stick-proficient.
I enjoyed the sweetheart roll, a spicy tuna roll cradled inside a meaty slice of perfectly pink tuna sushi arranged in the shape of a heart on the plate. Definitely a personal favorite, but I did not end there. I sampled the Atami roll, a house special made of shrimp – spicy and tempura – with cucumber and avocado. There was also the Lobster tempura roll. Now I’m not usually a big fan of tempura, but the lobster tempura roll was especially tasty. These rolls are not bite-sized and you may need to take it apart to get it all in your mouth, but it’s completely worth it.
My choice of sushi was unagi – a generous helping of eel over rice. It is often different from regular sushi because it’s not served completely raw, and it’s also served in a sauce. Atami’s eel was larger than others that I’ve seen and much more meaty. The sauce used is exceptionally tangy; the sauces are a highlight of this restaurant.
For my main course, I had a Hibachi and teriyaki choice, so I choose steak hibachi and shrimp teriyaki. Naturally, I was impressed by the teriyaki sauce, which coated every inch of the shrimp and gave it a thrilling flavor. I was left wanting more.
For dessert I was served an Atami exclusive; a Chinese sweet soup, served chilled, made of an almond-flavor crème with slices of pineapple and tapioca pearls. For anyone who enjoys a bubble tea, this dessert is a perfect way to end a meal.
Time and stomach constraints kept me from exploring other options Atami offers, such as the raw bar, but another trip is definitely on the agenda.
For those nearby earlier in the day, Atami has a lunch menu, and you can even order online. Visit their Web site at atami-ny.com