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Azami's Amazing Girl-Powered Sushi

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Remember how we told you that this weekend we'd be sending ourselves off on another leg of our sushi safari? Well, we bellied up to the bar at Azami Sushi Cafe on Melrose, and let the adventure begin. This time we'd decided we'd tried enough sushi to know, at the very least, good from bad, and we also knew it was time to let the chef make all the decisions. So we opted to do an omakase lunch, which put us in the hands of Niki Nakayama, co-owner and sushi mistress of Azami.

Admittedly Azami is located in a funky part of town--not so funky that it feels unsafe, but it's definitely on the edge of the more densely packed retail alley of Melrose. This, however, gives Azami a bit of an edge: They're the only sushi spot in the area. Folks seem to flock to Azami in happy devotion; our fellow diners at the bar confessed to making Azami their destination at least once or twice a week. That general upbeat vibe is central to the Azami experience. Nakayama shared with us her philosophy that sushi should be fun, and not about rules. She hoped we were having a good time, and with each selection she presented us we were sure to let her know our delight.

Ah, the sushi! First, the regular wasabi paste was swapped out for freshly ground wasabi, a new experience for us, and wow, what a difference in texture, spice, and taste--it was slightly more muted, but had more of an impact thanks to its absolute freshness. Our meal began with a lobster roll cut in three generous but not overwhelming segments, and drizzled in a creamy sauce (pictured). The roll was done in the traditional nori (seaweed) paper, but then was wrapped a second time in rice paper, which offered a curious balance between cool and warm, as well as the contrast between the textures and flavors. We were then served a yellowtail carpaccio dotted with pink peppercorns, which was light and spicy, and also for us a fresh presentation for the fish. And then we moved on to the pieces of sushi...