This weekend, Cooks & Soldiers will begin hosting a sushi pop-up called Mujō that has been in the works for several years. On May 29, New York City-based chef J. Trent Harris will launch a takeout-only omakase menu from the West Midtown tapas restaurant.
Harris and restaurateur Federico Castellucci, whose Castellucci Hospitality Group owns Cooks & Soldiers, have worked to make this partnership a reality since the two met at New York sushi restaurant Shuko. The pop-up was originally an exploratory idea to test the concept of an omakase-only sushi restaurant in Atlanta, but according to Castellucci, plans for a permanent restaurant are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mujō will offer a variety of Japanese dining options, with a focus on sushi omakase as well as donburi (rice bowl dishes) and zensai (snacks and appetizers). The omakase menu consists of two options: 6- and 10-piece nigiri selected by chef Harris that each come with miso soup and kanpyo maki. The donburi options include tekka don, a bowl of marinated tuna over sushi rice, or salmon ikura don, a similar dish with marinated salmon. The zensai menu has a wider selection of individual dishes, from snow crab and caviar to wagyu tataki, or seared wagyu beef.
“We were pretty far along in the planning process for the pop up before the pandemic hit,” said Castellucci. “New York is obviously completely shut down, and Jordan reached out because he wasn’t able to do anything in the city.” Castellucci said that his culinary team was happy to move forward with the project, especially now that Cooks & Soldiers has held successful pop-ups featuring steak and barbecue.
“We thought, ‘What would a takeout-only omakase look like?’” said Castellucci. “We decided to give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Castellucci and Harris have had a congenial relationship since Harris served the restaurateur and his wife at Shuko, which the Castelluccis describe as the best sushi meal they’ve ever had. Harris has worked at a collection of the world’s best sushi restaurants and brings complex technique to his food, including aging some of his cuts of fish using a method similar to dry-aging beef.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a few complications on the road to making Mujō a reality. Harris has been in Atlanta for over a month, but the Castelluccis asked him to quarantine for at least two weeks after traveling from New York, one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19. Getting high-quality ingredients, a necessity for a sushi restaurant, hasn’t been easy either. “Sourcing has been extremely challenging, but we’ve been able to get some cool stuff” said Castellucci.
As for any future restaurant blossoming from the Mujō pop-up, those plans are on hold for the moment as the restaurant group grapples with the lasting effects of coronavirus pandemic. “The dream is that it will lead to more,” said Castellucci.
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