Dining » Vol. 3

Baba Sushi Restaurant

By Bernie Whitmore

Baba Sushi Restaurant
309 Park Ave, Worcester

Confessions of a sushi convert: there was a time I’d cross the street to avoid a sushi restaurant. But rarely are such aversions rational decisions, so ~ heeding philosophers as diverse as Doctor Seuss and the Cowardly Lion ~ I decided to face my fears and try it. And it was good…I love sushi!

Thus emboldened, I eagerly anticipated dining at Baba Sushi Restaurant. I’d heard the buzz last year when they were named “Worcester’s Best Chef” and now that the hype has had time to cool, a friend and I met at Baba’s for dinner. On this weeknight, bleak with nasty March weather, Baba was packed. But hospitality seems etched into their DNA and Wilson, master-chef and owner, brought out chairs and rearranged furniture to seat us.

Baba’s modern décor is underscored by dramatic lighting. This wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but became so after I realized my attention was drawn exactly per their design ~ objects were backlit or featured by splashes of light. And the main attraction, the cuisine, always seemed to be in the spotlight.

Mai, our waitress, started us with drinks. I ordered a can of Sapporo beer, crisp and cold, whilst my friend chose a glass of Campanile Pinot Grigio. After negotiating a meal order that satisfied both of us, I added Seaweed Salad.

“You mean Seafood Salad.” he corrected.

“No Seaweed” I insisted.

“You’re on your own with that!” he retorted.

Moments later, Mai returned with a martini glass of the bright forest-green salad. This is like nothing you’ve kicked at the beach; the thin strings of lightly dressed – slightly crunchy seaweed tasted as healthy as possible. And alas, one taste and my friend decided it was good, so we shared equally.

Meanwhile, the table near us was served a Seafood Salad that looked so delicious I’ll order it when I return to Baba.

Baba’s Banana Flamb

From there we had our only hot dish, the Calamari Tempura appetizer. Think fried calamari on hyper-drive. Rings of tender calamari were lightly battered with (I daresay) panko crumbs and fried ‘til light gold. They were dramatically nestled upon asparagus spears that had received the same tempura treatment and served with a sweet-hot jalapeño drizzle.

As the music moved from down tempo to vintage Motown, our main dish arrived and my esteem for Baba continued to mount. Our Salmon Avocado Maki Roll was made with creamy-rich avocado that clung to the salmon in a roll of sticky white rice. On the same platter came our choice of sashimi: Maguro Blue Fin Tuna ~ firm ruby-red and mild. In the center, our two sushi choices ~ Shrimp Sushi and Hamachi Yellow Tail ~ were served on a long green leaf. Both were rich and luxurious.

Calamari Tempura

Calamari Tempura

Until now I’d made a mission of preserving as much of my sense of taste as possible, setting aside wasabi and soy sauce. This all changed with dessert, Baba’s Banana Flambé. The procedure wasn’t performed table-side (Baba’s way too small for that), but I trust the ripe banana had been flambéed ‘til tender and served whole in a pool of extraordinarily rich caramel sauce drizzled with chocolate and cherry syrups. One peel was pulled back to expose the dissolving fruit and dramatically held aloft on a cherry-tipped skewer.

After an evening at Baba Restaurant, I treasure the day I lost my sushi phobia. There are several excellent sushi restaurants in the area, but Baba truly raises the bar.

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