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Big-bucks dining on Buford Highway

The most expensive prix fixe menu in metro Atlanta is not found at critical darling Staplehousesecluded Bacchanalia or Buckhead’s tony Restaurant Eugene. It’s found just outside the Perimeter, in the corner of a small strip mall on Buford Highway, normally the mecca for the most inexpensive meals in the area.

At $185, the honkaku omakase at Sushi Hayakawa (5979 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-986-0010, sushihayakawa.com) is as much a shock to preconceptions as it is to your credit card statement. But, for sushi purists, it’s worth every penny.

Honkaku means authentic, while omakase means, roughly, “I’m putting my faith in you, chef.” Making a reservation for Sushi Hayakawa’s honkaku omakase is indeed an act of faith in chef Atsushi “Art” Hayakawa, who personally guides just two diners each night through the multi-hour experience. You sit at the counter, facing Hayakawa as he delicately slices deeply hued o-toro or precisely shapes the sushi rice so critical to each bite of nigiri. You are here for the food, but also for Hayakawa’s friendly banter, encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese cuisine, and, if you’re lucky, stories of his childhood in Hokkaido.

Chef Atsushi “Art” Hayakawa prepares and delivers the omakase personally to diners at the counter. CONTRIBUTED BY ANDREW THOMAS LEE / SUSHI HAYAKAWA

In contrast to glitzy Buckhead sushi counterparts, guests at Sushi Hayakawa are advised to refrain from using their phones and to avoid wearing heavy perfume or cologne, all to bring a greater focus on the meal itself.

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The honkaku omakase stretches across 14 courses, driven by the market and the seasons, but always starting with a soup. It then moves to one of Hayakawa’s signature dishes, only available to omakase diners. That’s followed by an exacting progression of nigiri. Then, a temaki (a cone-shaped hand roll wrapped in nori), and finally, a light bite of kanten (a gelled fruit dessert, like blue plum or yuzu).

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The nigiri come one at a time, plate by plate, so your attention is focused and the fish arrives at the right temperature. Hayakawa guides diners through a flow of flavors and textures, happily providing the backstory on each fish.

Highlights of the meal might include Hayakawa’s signature monkfish liver and scallop pairing, brushed with housemade soy-truffle oil; or, the simplest nigiri, dressed lightly with one of Hayakawa’s tailored soy sauces. These are the kind of sushi plates that will make you forever forgo dunking too-elaborate rolls into pools of soy sauce and industrial green wasabi. Hayakawa focuses your senses on the essence of each fish he has worked so hard to source and share.

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s honkaku — authenticity over artifice in a town where pricey sushi often feels like a fashion show.

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