Basan breathes fire into Bull City sushi scene | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Basan breathes fire into Bull City sushi scene 

Tropical Salmon Rolls and Sekiwake Rolls at Basan Bull City Sushi

Photo by Justin Cook

Tropical Salmon Rolls and Sekiwake Rolls at Basan Bull City Sushi

In the time it takes for me to choose an Instagram filter, Toshio Sakamaki can turn a fish into a skeleton.

Basan, the just-opened Japanese restaurant by the Durham Performing Arts Center, recently hosted a preview dinner for local media. Mid-meal, Chef Sakamaki brought the sushi bar to us: cutting board, knife and all. The local fluke looked glorious on my iPhone. As Sakamaki wiped his blade, I thought, Amaro? No filter? When I looked up, he was done. And I wondered why people would go to DPAC when they could walk across the street and watch this.

You don't need a press pass to see the action. Basan turns the typical Japanese restaurant design on its head. With no wall between the sushi bar and kitchen, diners' eyes can feast on everything. The sights, from buttery slabs of salmon to steaming pots of ramen broth, are mesmerizing.

Basan marks the sixth venture and Durham debut for Eschelon Experiences, the restaurant group behind Faire and The Oxford.

"We saw the culinary scene exploding here," said founder Gaurav Patel, "and we wanted to be part of that."

Though the restaurant is still partially under construction, dining at Basan feels like attending a wedding planner's wedding. Its private event space, as well as traditional kotatsu area, both await completion. Yet everything else, from décor to service, feels as honed and sharpened as Sakamaki's knife.

The space is expansive—seating 85, including the cocktail bar, sushi bar, and dining room—and every inch is deliberately decorated. Bold red walls and rustic wood accents, abstract ceiling fixtures and chic dim lighting.

Then there's the art.

In Japanese mythology, basan means fire-breathing chicken. This playful namesake serves as a motif throughout the restaurant, thanks to original work from local artists. The pieces—paper cutouts by Haley Serrano, a colossal wood sculpture by Mike Laut—make fire-breathing dragons seem so last year.

Basan's food similarly walks the line between whimsical and upscale. At first glance, the menu resembles the BOGO formula: cheesy names for rolls, like Shark Bite and Screaming O. But a closer look reveals a more complex operation. Nods to the American sushi craze—cream cheese and spicy aioli—accompany originality.

Take the kizami wasabi. The "wasabi" you expect is, actually, dyed Shrek-green horseradish. Basan makes a point to offer the real deal—a vinegary, pungent relish that will make you (OK, me) cry, tears of spice and glee. Note: The condiment costs $4, but try it at least once.

On our table's sushi boat, the captain had to be the Hurricane: a tempura shrimp roll wrapped in latke-like shoestring potatoes. Though the eel nigiri—smoky, not at all drowned in sauce—ranked a close second. Special rolls range from $9 to $15.

Yet to say Basan is only about the sushi would minimize the extensive menu, which the new kitchen seems to have a tight grip on. Cooked items not to be missed include the pork belly kushiyaki, miso-braised ribs, Okinawa potatoes, and, yes, Brussels sprouts. Fried, then dressed in wasabi vinaigrette, they're good enough to spur a chopstick battle among food writers.

Oh, and that fluke Sakamaki butchered? Called hirame carpaccio, the dish is finished with hot sesame oil, brightened by yuzu, flecked with ginger and garlic. The marinade screeched as it hit the plate, slightly "cooking" the fish. It was so luscious, so captivating, I forgot all about Instagram.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Picture perfect."

Tags:

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature



Twitter Activity

Comments

A great little family Italian restaurant. Good menu. Quiet setting. Good service. …

by Anthony Dean Morgan on Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant (Durham County)

The Refectory is no longer on the Duke Campus. Their new, permanent location is on Chapel Hill Blvd, and yes …

by Beth Owl's Daughter on The Refectory Cafe (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

It's impossible to decide what's worse with this guy, the opinions or the writing. Well, congrats at least on getting …

by Van Buren Boy on How One Local Server Learned to Stop Worrying About Bird Poop and Embrace Patio Dining (Food Feature)

You forgot to mention Treforni in Durham as one of the more noteworthy independent pizzerias in the area. …

by Shocka Kahn on Pizzeria Faulisi Masters Family Style With Adept Culinary Skill (Food Feature)

Querido Senor Vasquez, Por favor specify YOUR specific Latino country and culture so that we may be assured you only …

by Trizia on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

Jesus Vasquez - I don't want to speak for Monica Segovia-Welsh, featured in this story as one-half of the business, …

by victoria_foodeditor on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

As for the previous post, please explain the difference between "appropriating" and celebrating/appreciating different cultures.

by Barbara 2 on Chicken Bridge Bakery Feeds Bodies and Minds with Baked-In Messages of Resistance and Solidarity (Food Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation