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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Eat & Drink in Folsom: Aji Japanese Bistro

Feb 28, 2018 01:45PM

Aji Japanese Bistro, 4361 Town Center Boulevard, Suite 111, El Dorado Hills, 916-941-9181,

For those who believe like I do, that there’s more to Japanese food than rolled rice cylinders covered in four different sauces—I’ve got a place for you. I feel like I should keep it a secret, but it’s much too late for that. Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills is local Chef/Restauranteur Russell Okubo’s jewel, and his offerings shine like a polished pearl. 

The moment you enter Aji, there’s a depth and warmth you don’t experience in an average sushi house or most other establishments for that matter—other than possibly a fine dining steakhouse. Appointed in dark hues and accented by white birch, with scenic outdoor vistas, it’s a perfect venue for an intimate dinner or lunch with friends.

Chef Okubo’s seasonal menu immediately captivated me with headings like “Trust,” “Street Food,” and “Tacos and Sliders.” I sampled the panko, asparagus, and garlic veggie tacos from the latter list, and was presented with a creative vegetarian take on its Mexican cousin. The panko-coated asparagus, pickled cucumber and red onion slaw topped with sesame seeds, chopped green onions, and a citrusy, creamy emulsion of garlic miso sauce in a corn tortilla was a great starter. 

Next, I wanted to try the chef’s take on ramen—Spicy Garlic Chicken Ramen to be exact. One day later as I’m writing this, my nose begins to run, and my mouth becomes a sauna anticipating the leftovers I covertly stashed away from companions. I don’t know what to start with here—the fiery sriracha-infused broth or the grilled, slightly charred thighs. I’ll just say this: If you’re a lover of all things ramen and spicy, Aji’s got what you need in one beautiful bowl. 

OK, in the parlance of one of America’s great linguists Lawrence Peter Berra (aka “Yogi” Berra), “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Thus, when given the choice of braised short ribs with sweet chili, Thai basil, and panko eggplant; or Chilean sea bass grilled in misoyaki with garlic wild mushrooms and asparagus...I said “Yes.” And so should you given a choice. The beef ribs—four to a serving—were large, tenderly braised, and presented in a sweet chili sauce atop a surprisingly delicate panko-fried eggplant plank. The Chilean sea bass was another of my favorites owing to the mildly sweet yellow miso glaze (misoyaki) and the amazingly fresh, wild mushrooms in garlic anointing the delicate fish.

 Of course, Aji also does craft cocktails, sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls, too (quite well, thank you!).

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (Friday-Saturday)

Try This: Rock Shrimp Lettuce Cups, Kalbi Tacos and House Kimchi Slaw, Spicy Garlic Chicken Ramen, Braised Short Ribs, Chilean Sea Bass, Honey and Pine Nut Prawns, Sweet Grilled Ribeye, Aji Standard Raw, Loco Moco, Green Tea Crème Brûlée 

DRINKS: Full bar; beer, wine, and cocktails 

Tab: $$ 

Heads-Up: Happy Hour from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday and all day Monday and from 8-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, plus other weekly specials including “Wine Wednesdays” and “Old-Fashioned Thursdays”; brunch served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; daily lunch specials until 3 p.m.; “Trust Menu” allows diners to let their server customize a chef’s family-style dinner; multiple vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options; catering, private chef’s dinners, and event space available; kids’ menu; dog-friendly patio 

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