MAIN INGREDIENTS: cheesecake bites, brownie bites, fresh strawberries, oranges
FUN FACT: The dessert’s inventor Seisuke Fukuoka and his wife, Tomoko, own Kalamata + Sushi and also the Japanese-style Karaoke Studio, which she manages
Six years ago, Seisuke Fukuoka left Osaka, Japan, behind and came to America—first stop, Knoxville—in answer to an ad on the Internet requesting workers for a local Japanese restaurant. Osaka is the second-biggest city in Japan—“Pretty much like Los Angeles,” says Fukuoka—and he’s enjoyed the natural surroundings in the Knoxville area. “The people are nice compared to the big city,” he says. “Only my English is a problem.”
His spoken English vocabulary isn’t extensive, but if the Dessert Kabob he created when he opened Kalamata + Sushi Bar almost two years ago is any indication, Fukuoka’s American is just fine. Threaded on a skewer and with a balanced, Feng Shui presentation, the kabob is positively decadent: deep-fried cheesecake and brownie bits served piping hot and melty, fresh strawberries providing a chilled, firm, not too sweet contrast, and fresh orange and whipped cream to blend the other tastes. The dessert, along with a fresh-fruit sushi roll also authored by Fukuoka, is independently popular at the restaurant—just as likely to finish a meal of the Greek-style shish kebob or pizza the restaurant kept when it switched owners as it is to follow a fresh and wholesome Japanese curry or Mackerel Miso.
Fukuoka, who became a state-certified chef in his home country, is a third-generation sushi chef—his deceased grandmother, his father, who still operates a very traditional sushi restaurant in Osaka, and him. He says his father has never eaten a brownie. “He doesn’t know about brownies. He doesn’t know about cheesecake. After the World War, you can’t import to Japan. No pizza there, no hamburger, no Coke.” At his father’s restaurant, people sit on tatami mats, at a sushi counter. “It is inside a fish market, it is very fresh, very good,” says Fukuoka.
The restaurant in Osaka has been in the family more than 50 years, and one day Fukuoka, who is 38, will return to Japan to run it.