Owner Jackie Fukuya Merkel seems to know nearly every customer who walks through the door of Bishoku (5920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 404-252-7998). Jackie is the daughter of Kimio Fukuya, the now retired owner of Sushi Huku, which Zagat once rated Atlanta's best Japanese restaurant. Bishoku is just a few miles from Jackie's father's former restaurant, and the customers have followed.
According to one of the waitresses, Bishoku means, "beautiful dining." The restaurant lives up to its name. Glossy modern woods and furnishings bear tiny winks of traditional Japanese decor. A keen eye for subtle details is also evident in the dinnerware. It's not uncommon for the chopstick rests to change visit to visit.
Lunch and dinner menus are short (you can order from both during lunch). Tonkatsu – a crunchy fried pork cutlet sliced with precision – is served with sinus-clearing Japanese mustard, feathery shredded cabbage, sticky white rice and a molasses-thick sweet and sour tonkatsu sauce. Mix in a dollop of mustard for sensory overload. As katsu don, the same fried pork is served on top of a bowl of vegetables and silky eggs over rice.
Wade in to the unofficial ramen wars; the tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is at once creamy and salty as it should be (although it has the tendency to get too salty toward the end of the bowl). The restaurant's choice to use packaged noodles for the sake of consistency (versus handmade noodles) is no mistake. The packaged variety has a delightful spring and density. The miso ramen's broth has a lighter mouth feel; it tastes like miso, broth and butter. The requisite slices of whole pork are tender. Fatty. Perfect.
On one visit, a bowl of chirashi don (white rice topped with an assortment of sashimi) yielded cold rice – it should be slightly warm – and the fish was almost tasteless. Another visit brought with it some oddly tangy toro (fatty tuna) and semi-frozen ama ebi (raw sweet shrimp). Sushi isn't the real attraction here for now. Instead, the hand-written specials menu is your ticket to Bishoku's treasures. The biggest surprise on this ever-changing menu is the rarely seen oden, a stew-like concoction sold from street carts during Japan's bitter winters. The restaurant was out when I visited. They did have geso kara age (fried squid legs), ebi renkon (renkon/lotus roots flash fried with shrimp) and the most intriguing item of them all, breaded and fried shrimp stuffed with sticky Japanese pumpkin. The chawan mushi – a steamed egg custard studded with gingko nuts, shrimp and chicken – is ethereal on the tongue before melting away.
The restaurant has almost finished its beer, wine and sake list, which will feature both boutique and seasonal selections at a variety of price points.
The waitresses are eager to offer help and explanations. They might even reach out and season your food the way that they "like to eat it." What's more beautiful than that?