My sister and I are drawn to restaurants and bars in hotels. Not on purpose, mind you. We just inevitably end up at one. There is something innately wonderful about a hotel bar. Perhaps, it is the mystery of travel—the feeling that we could meet anyone among these foreigners or that anything could happen. Or, we just enjoy making fun of fanny-packers from Iowa. (Kinda depends on the hotel bar, right?)
Travel aside, Emily and I have also been known to dine at hotel establishments within our fair city. One phone call, one Groupon, and one word (sushi) later, we found ourselves at Aja, the “urban greenmarket Asian cafe” at the Dana Hotel.
The room is a bit weird. They have those fake red Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling and a fake (although modern) fireplace. The room is clad in various shades of wood. The restaurant is on two levels—with a bar on each floor. The menu is heavy on the seafood with just a few items for the vegetarians out there.
What We Ate
As we went for mostly sushi, we split everything:
Curried mussels: Steamed mussels in red curry coconut broth, cilantro, and ginger. Served with toasted herb bread. The sauce is good, but there’s not enough of it. You find it at the bottom of the bowl whe you’re halfway through the dish and think, “There should maybe be a bit more of this goodness.”
Spicy tuna roll: Your typical spicy tuna roll with cucumber, tobiko, togarashi, and spicy mayo. Good, but not outstanding, amazing, I have to go back.
Citrus salmon roll: Salmon rolled with ripe mango, avocado, and preserved lemon. Bright and refreshing, but not over-powering with the lemon.
Hamachi roll: Asparagus, jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, yuzu sauce. My absolute favorite. Really a very fine sushi roll. The jalapeño added a bit of a kick but in a good way that makes you want to eat more.
Kimchee: Napa cabbage, rice vinegar and jalapeño. This is considered a side, and if you want to order more than one side, they have a sliding price scale. You could make a meal of just side dishes without too much problem. Again, good, but not overly spicy.
Korean potato salad: Served in garlic aioli, scallions, and chives. I’m not sure what made this potato salad Korean as opposed to any other sort of potato salad. If I ever go back, I’d opt for the marble potatoes which are poached in duck fat.
What We Drank
Wine by the glass. I had a shiraz. Emily had something red as well and then switched to something else that was red. (Yup, I’m that good when it comes to wines.) I don’t remember a very exciting cocktail menu, but I’m off hard liquor for a good long while. (I’ll tell you all about it after I get over my mortification.)
Location: 660 N. State Street, in the Dana Hotel. They have a spa and valet parking, so you could come for lunch or dinner and stay for a massage and some stranger moving the seat around in your car.