The name sums it up — Jazushi, a sly blend of jazz and sushi — and that's exactly what the sophisticated little restaurant in Jacksonville offers.

Owners Sunni and Kaiki Suzuki just opened the eatery, modeling it on a much larger establishment with the same theme and name that they previously operated in Sydney, Australia.

Kaiki, a trombone player and sushi chef, prepares the food in a gleaming open kitchen, and Sunni, a jazz vocalist, tends to the customers in the dining room, which is decorated with rich colors and jazz records, posters and other memorabilia.

A piano in the corner hints at the live music offered Friday and Saturday nights, but a steady soundtrack of recorded jazz classics playing in the background sets the scene even at lunchtime.

I ventured there for lunch with co-worker Laurie Heuston, who keeps track of musical happenings at bars and club around the valley for Tempo and had a hot tip on this location from a local jazz musician.

She's not a sushi fan, but enjoys teriyaki. Jazushi offers a choice of teriyaki chicken or fish of the day, which was yellowtail the day we visited.

She chose the chicken for $14.95 and was soon presented with an elegant platter heaped with skin-on slices of succulent thigh meat slathered with savory sauce and accompanied by mounds of slivered cabbage salad and baby greens, and bowls of rich miso soup and slightly sticky rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds.

I dived right into the sushi offerings. Jazushi offers handrolls, the cone-shaped morsels also known as temaki, and I tried one with scallops for $4.50. When it comes to sushi rolls, I prefer maki, the rolls that are cut into little bite-sized cylinders, but the Jazushi handroll had the perfect balance of rice, cucumber and supremely fresh seafood.

The freshness and quality of ingredients also shone in a sashimi salad, that for $14.95, brilliantly showcased what the restaurant offers.

The seafood was nestled in delicate shreds of cabbage drizzled with "wasu," a delectable Asian-style dressing that tasted of soy and sesame. Delicious!

The salad featured slices of salmon, succulent chunks of sweet scallops, a minced mix of toro tuna with a hint of onion, a coral-colored crab salad so delicate it was almost a mousse, and a dab of bright tobiko, flying fish roe. Crisp, baby greens and a crunchy, tangy serving of seaweed salad filled out the plate.

Jazushi serves bottled beer, wine, soda, juices and tea. Laurie and I each had a pot of tea — green tea for her and genmai cha, the nutty tasting blend of green tea and brown rice, for me.

The whole jewel box of a restaurant is tucked in a recreation of "Beekmans Express," one of Jacksonville's first buildings that was rebuilt in 2002 based on historical records. The historical setting, musical highlights and spare Asian table settings, combine to create a welcoming atmosphere, but the wee dining room seats just 16. Take-out orders are available, too.

On a follow-up call, I was surprised to learn that Jazushi's grand opening is weeks away, and the Suzukis claim they are still working out the kinks with a soft opening, serving musicians and drop-in customers who stumble upon them.

They haven't even hired a staff yet, doing everything themselves this month. As things take off, they plan to expand the menu to include other styles of sushi, tempura and tofu dishes, and extend the hours they are open, Sunni Suzuki said.

I will definitely be back to see how this charming couple and their endeavor soar.

— Anita Burke

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