It seems as though a mere year is all that was necessary for the intersection of South Avenue and Gregory Street to establish itself as a potential hotbed of gastronomy. "I wanted to be part of that neighborhood," says Piranha Sushi Bar chef and co-owner Nic Grammatico, who recently debuted his latest venture just doors down from young spots like Zeppa, Cheshire, and Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream. Partnering this time with his brother Matthew, Grammatico's Banzai Sushi & Cocktail Bar brings not only raw fish to the South Wedge, but dim sum plus some nicely priced libations to wash everything down.
Those familiar with Piranha's maki creations should recognize some of the popular rolls that made the trip over to the bright and inviting new space, like the Surf and Turf ($13.50), here with seared beef and snow crab. But where Piranha's menu demonstrates a Latin-Caribbean bent, Banzai's influences are "Southeast Asian and Polynesian," according to Grammatico. That inspiration pops up in maki like Red Curry Chicken ($6.50) as well as a spicy Kim Chee roll ($3.50), one of Banzai's many vegetarian options. Salads and soups are among the offerings, and the dim sum includes crispy tempura ($6-$8) along with cloudlike steamed buns surrounding savory fillings like tofu, pork shoulder, or roast duck ($4.50-$6.50).
The craft cocktails were conjured up by Banzai manager Nate Nickens; the current season is represented in the Kentucky Pumpkin Patch ($6), made with bourbon, butternut squash, and brown sugar, and I happily fished for the fresh pomegranate seeds in the gorgeous tequila-and-Chambord-based Bite The Berry ($7). Besides wine and beer, Banzai also features a decent sake selection, but Grammatico is already thinking bigger. "We want to be Rochester's first real sake bar," he says, with plans for flights and tastings.
Oh, and you night owls, B-shifters, and service-industry types will be thrilled to learn that Banzai serves sushi until 1 a.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, meaning that your late-night eating choices have finally expanded beyond what goes into your Garbage Plate.
Banzai Sushi & Cocktail Bar is located at 682 South Ave. It is open Monday-Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. (sushi served until 10 p.m.); Thursday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. (sushi served until 1 a.m.); and Sunday 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (sushi served until 10 p.m.). Food prices range from $3.50 to $21. For more information, call 473-0345 or visit Banzai's Facebook page.
Now open at 982 Monroe Ave., just in time for party and gift-giving season is Darn Good Cookie Co., which assembles and delivers cookie cakes and baskets as it provides job opportunities to clients of East House, a nonprofit rehab agency helping those with chronic mental illness and/or chemical dependency. Prices begin at $6.25 for a half-dozen, but you can also walk in and snatch up individual cookies in varieties like I Want Candy and Red Velvet White Chip — plus, of course, classics like chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin — for $1 each. Give 'em a call at 473-2181 or visit darngoodcookie.com.
Brick-N-Motor is the latest addition to this area's thriving armada of food trucks, serving up vittles that you'd be lucky to find even at an eatery that didn't have wheels on it. Owner/operator Paul Vroman, formerly executive chef at Max of Eastman Place, offers a burger at all times (a recent preparation featured aged cheddar, arugula, balsamic onion jam, and pickled autumn vegetables), as well as an inventive blackboard menu that's both rotating and seasonal. I'm still thinking about the heavenly butternut squash gnocchi with porchetta, caramelized Brussels sprouts, and maple gastrique that I cozied up to the other day. Follow the truck's tasty travels on Facebook and Twitter, or visit bricknmotortruck.com.
Walworth artisans Dale and Ellen Montondo, who roast and grind the cacao beans, then fashion the results into microbatch confections under their Tocoti Chocolate label, will be hosting a chocolate seminar and tasting Saturday, November 3, 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Cocoa Bean Shoppe, 30 S. Main St., Pittsford. Tickets cost $3 and seating is limited; call 203-1618 for reservations, or visit cocoabeanshoppe.com.
The Haunted Brewery at Custom BrewCrafters, 300 Village Square Blvd. in Honeoye Falls, will be open for especially scary business 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, October 27. For $15 you'll get the tour, a free tasting card or pint of beer, and $5 off your food purchase at the Pint & Goblet Tavern. For more information, call 624-4386 or visit cbsbrewing.com...if you have the guts.
Keep an eye out for the new batch of City Dining Cards, good through the end of 2013. [Editor's note: City Dining Cards are unaffiliated with City Newspaper.] Essentially it's 50 coupons, each good for $10 off at restaurants like Agatina's, Nikko, Tapas 177, and the Wintonaire. And know that 5 percent of the $20 purchase price gets donated to local food banks. Visit citydiningcards.com for a complete list of participating restaurants, a bit of the fine print, and where to buy.
So long to the Anchor Bar, whose recently closed space in Marketplace Mall will become home in a few months to an outpost of the Buffalo-based Papaya Asian Kitchen. But don't fret; you might be able to find beer and chicken wings someplace else.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.