This article appears in the March issue of 400 Life.
Patience, experience and freshness — these are the ingredients that Rice Restaurant & Sushi Bar Head Chef Bobby Agi say are crucial to making sushi that is as much art as food.
Over the past decade, Agi and the Rice restaurant team have earned a tremendous following and reputation in the Forsyth County area for their artful food and ability to draw crowds nearly every night, and have been voted best sushi restaurant in the county for five consecutive years.
On a typical weekend night, the tiny north Forsyth restaurant is packed with hungry patrons waiting for takeout and tables, while waiters weave through the crowded tables with their plates piled high with sushi, salads and other entrees.
On a Friday night in February, local residents Michael and Kerry Carter sat down for a dinner at the restaurant, which they say has quickly become a favorite of theirs for its food and service.
“It’s so fresh, we’ve eaten sushi all over Atlanta and to have this in our back yard is absolutely fantastic. It’s a gem,” Michael Carter said.
“It’s an intimate setting, so it’s not too big and a lot of times we’ll get the same waiter every time who knows our order before we can even give it to them,” Kerry Carter said.
The Carters say that they regularly come into the restaurant and treat themselves to a spread of courses, feasting on soups, salads, vegetable tempura, and a select assortment of sashimi (thin slices of fresh raw sushi meat.)
“We don’t really go for the rolls a lot,” Michael Carter said. “We like the actual sashimi, the actual fish.”
According to Agi, to keep sushi connoisseurs like the Carter family in yellow tail and tuna, the restaurant receives daily deliveries of fresh catches. Once it’s in the restaurant though, it’s up to Agi and his team to turn it into something edible and beautiful.
As a veteran sushi chef with 14 years of experience, Agi said that he designs each of the sushi rolls that patrons eat in their restaurant, bouncing ideas and flavors off his fellow staff members.
“I come up with the idea and we collaborate with everybody in here, so everything is perfect,” Agi said. “We always learn from each other, from Instagram.”
He said that they have to pay close attention to what people are interested in, what they like and what they want to find the right combination of ingredients.
“First of all, [for] good sushi, the rice must be perfect,” Agi said. “The next step is the sushi chef, you must be experienced, and you have to be patient. Then everything is going to combine and be perfect, the rice and the sushi chef.”
He said that currently their Cassanova roll, shrimp tempura and crab salad topped with butter garlic seared scallops and serrano pepper is incredibly popular with guests, but for his money, the Red Samurai — spicy tuna topped with avocado, grape tomato, jalapeno, with sweet ponzu sauce — takes the cake.
“Because sushi is always variation and different all the time,” he said. “Everything is balanced and perfect.”
One of the perks of being able to exert some creativity through his food, is that Agi says he gets to see peoples’ happiness twice, once at seeing his creations and once after they’ve enjoyed the taste.
“I consider myself an artist because I like what I do,” he said. “Everything people want, you name it, that’s the difference here.”