There is no shortage of sushi joints in Atlantic City.
So when Resorts Casino Hotel’s Food and Beverage team were conceptualizing what their sushi offering would be, they decided to approach it from the right angle.
“You see lots of different concepts out there with their varied takes on sushi,” says Vice President of Food and Beverage Edward Batten. “But we all asked ourselves what was the most important thing? So we approached it from the food end. The food has to be perfect. Then everything else falls in place.”
They settled on the name Mukashi Sushi Bar because “Mukashi” translates to “olden days” or “once upon a time.” In other words, Resorts’ sushi bar pays homage to sushi’s origins and the way sushi is made in Japan.
“We are always looking at Resorts’ portfolio and what our unmet needs are, and sushi was at the top of the list,” Batten says. “My bosses have been wanting sushi for two or three years, but when we were going to do it, we wanted to make sure we did it right. So we decided to be traditional. There are tons of sushi places out there but we wanted Mukashi to be the place that if you go, we won’t be the most expensive, but we guarantee it will be the best money you will spend on sushi. It’s going to be like if you are eating it in Japan.”
After lots of research, Batten and his team led by Executive Sous Chef David Wong revealed little things that elevate the sushi experience.
First, it all starts with the quality fish, a good deal that is imported from Japan.
“A lot of the fish comes from there,” Wong says. “The mackerel there is completely different because it comes from rivers in a cooler climate. The tuna, of course, is second to none. Salmon roe, or Ikura, anyone can get it, but we are getting king salmon Ikura, which is bigger and so much better. The fresh water eel … even the kani stick imported for the California roll is so much better and makes so much of a difference. I never eat California roll, but I will eat ours because it’s awesome.”
Other little things go a long way, including the use of Arari rice crackers to mimic tempura flakes’ texture because tempura flakes can get soggy; using red rice vinegar for the sushi rice so it’s not as sticky and has a balance of flavors; offering high-quality, low-sodium soy sauce only; buying graded wasabi and making their own paste and gelatins; buying yielded green tea for their green tea instead of typical dried tea leaves; and more.
“I am spoiled now; I don’t want to eat sushi anywhere else now,” Batten says.
Then there’s the approach.
All of the sushi is made right in front of you at the 18-seat bar that blends Mukashi’s traditional menu with a more modern red and white aesthetic with modern Japanese art and comfortable leather stools.
“When you look at something as simple as a spicy tuna roll,” Wong explains. “Here, almost everywhere, you only get the scraps. In Japan, they try to utilize the whole fish. It’s honor to not waste anything. So you might get some scraps from the bone but in the good sushi places you will always get a piece of sushi-grade loin, and that’s what we are doing here. Most places around here never use the loin in spicy tuna roll. The same goes for the salmon. There is great bang for your buck here.”
Rolls, ranging from $7 to $19, will be familiar to everyone, with one addition: the Resorts Roll ($19), the only non-traditional roll on the menu featuring shrimp tempura, seared beef tataki, cucumber, guacamole, eel sauce and spicy aioli.
“When you look at the menu, there should be nothing totally foreign to any casual sushi eater,” Batten says. “They are all things that are familiar but the execution is different. And that means when you bite into it, there’s a clean-mouth feel from that beautiful fish that comes out from great sushi.”
Sashimi and Nigiri ranges from $6 to $12 including salmon, bigeye tuna, sea urchin, octopus, Japanese mackerel, freshwater eel, white shrimp and more.
But one of the most unique options is the debut of the Donburi Bowl, a unique offering that is basically a fish and rice meal with pickled vegetables and sesame in a giant bowl.
“It’s a classic dish that casual brands in the U.S. would call a teriyaki bowl,” Wong says. “This is an upscale version of that. It’s like an entrée in a sushi restaurant in Japan treated in an upscale way. And you get a lot of bang for your buck,” he repeats.
There are two hot Donburi Bowls: Unadon ($25) with broiled eel, scallion, eel sauce and sansho (Japanese pepper); and Misodon ($34), a mind-blowing koji-marinated sea bass with red miso sauce and scallion.
And there are three raw bowls: Tekkadon ($25) with sliced tuna; Pokedon ($24) with marinated salmon; and Kaisendon/Chirazushi ($29), the latter word which means “scattered” because chefs choose what goes in it based on available ingredients.
“It’s the bargain of the bunch because you can get $65 worth of sushi for half price in there,” Wong explains. “Back to not wanting to waste anything, this bowl features nice cuts of fish but maybe there are two ends that don’t make a perfect square for the sashimi or nigiri. They go into this bowl, and you will probably see bigger pieces of fish than you would otherwise.”
Wong says his team loves getting creative.
“We are going to expand the menu as we continue, but it’s all about creativity for us,” he says. “It’s what chefs want to do. So if you are bored, come in and tell our chefs to just be creative and don’t even order off the menu. They will create a sushi experience second to none.”
Mukashi serves sushi in its adjacent EastWind Chinese Restaurant, but the two places have select identities and stay mostly separate in respect to the different cultures and Japan’s once longtime oppression of the Chinese.
Some rolls are also served in the brand-new and super-impressive DraftKings Sportsbook, which is one of the reasons Mukashi exists.
“We are able to roll some of the costs of building a proper sushi bar in the design of the sportsbook,” Batten says. “The moons aligned, and we got the sushi bar we always wanted. It was worth the wait. I have been eating sushi since the ’70s on the West Coast when you couldn’t find it here for another 8 to 10 years. Now, places are dummying it down in buffets and supermarkets, so it’s everywhere. But this is quality. This is the way sushi should be enjoyed.”