One of my favorite documentary films of the last few years is Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a fascinating portrait of sushi chef Jiro Ono, and his Tokyo restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro – considered by many to be the finest sushi restaurant in the world. Before watching the film, I assumed that good sushi was merely a matter of finding the freshest possible fish and slicing it up in even rectangles.
But Jiro Dreams of Sushi shows that there’s a lot more to it than that. Tireless dedication, unimaginable precision, and artistic imagination are also essential to making sushi soar.
I was reminded of all this on a recent visit to Little Lilly Sushi, which opened in 2012 on Camp Bowie in west Fort Worth, and which has since developed a passionate following. For one thing, head chef Jesus Garcia is a fan of Jiro Dreams of Sushi himself; when he overheard our table talking about the movie, he insisted we try his version of tamag – the egg omelet that Jiro’s chefs spends years perfecting. (It was terrific -- soft and pleasingly sweet -- though Garcia says his is much different from the version we see in the documentary).
And just like the restaurant we see in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Little Lily Sushi – which was recently named one of the ten best new restaurants in the entire state by Texas Monthly) -- seems intent on arresting your palette, by approaching sushi in new and creative ways. The menu includes such less familiar choices as hokkigai (Arctic surf clam), nidako (boiled octopus) and ama ebi (Canadian sweet spot prawn). On the day we visited, Garcia was especially keen on the masunosuke, or New Zealand king salmon, which had just arrived that morning.
The roll menu is also extensive; our favorite was the tai citrus roll, which features garlic seasoned tuna and asparagus, topped with seabream, Japanese mint, lime soy and lime pickled jalapeño – a marvelous combination of silky, sour and spicy.
And for those who simply can’t get past the idea of eating raw fish, the menu also features numerous hot dishes. We tried the handmade gyoza, pork, cabbage and garlic dumplings served nicely crispy; and the shishito lime peppers, a familiar dish that Garcia gives a surprisingly sweet kick, courtesy of brown sugar and pecans. Most impressive of all was the okonomiyaki, a vegetable pancake topped with shrimp, pork belly, aonori seaweed and bonito flakes. Delicately textured, and poised neatly between salty and savory, it’s a dish unlike any other in Fort Worth.
All that said, for the truly adventurous the best way to experience Little Lilly Sushi is to give yourself over to the adventure: Grab a spot at the small sushi bar; let Garcia know how much you’re willing to spend, and allow him to serve up whatever he pleases. Chances are there will be at least one or two items that you’ve never before heard of – and, once you’ve tasted them, you’ll want to immediately have again.
Indeed, don’t be surprised if, after dining at Little Lily, you too find yourself dreaming of sushi.