It should go without saying, but I love trying new restaurants, both on travels and in my home city of Mobile, Alabama. As a mom of two children under five, I can’t say I get out as much as I’d like to, so it’s a pretty monumental thing to be able to enjoy some cocktails and a nice meal with my husband, out, alone. Säisho, one of Mobile’s newest restaurants, has beckoned me ever since it opened. Their own website states describes a “modern American gastropub, inspired by the kitchens and bars of Japan.” Some of my favorite flavors and dishes (ahem, ramen) are Japanese, so I was seriously pumped. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Säisho, and it did not disappoint.
Säisho offers several small plates and a few entrées on a seasonal menu, showcasing local and regional ingredients married with traditional Japanese flavors. My husband and I wanted to taste several dishes instead of ordering one entrée apiece, so we split three small plates and a ramen bowl. We also ordered (ahem) a few of Säisho’s renowned cocktails. All of them were delicious, but the Dr. Bee was a favorite–a refreshing, zingy concoction of gin, honey-matcha syrup, ginger liqueur, and lemon.
Their tonkatsu, a tenderloin of pork pounded thin, panko crusted, and deep fried, was served in the Japanese tradition with a cabbage slaw, drizzled with a deep, sticky, devastatingly delicious sauce. It was crispy and juicy and everything a fried pork loin should be. The cabbage was classic and simple, but my husband and I found ourselves chasing the last shreds around with our forks.
We then refreshed our palates with the most unusual tomato salad I’ve ever had in the South. Heirloom tomatoes are tossed with a peach-sesame vinaigrette which is tangy and nutty at the same time, and finished with shio kombu, which is sweetened, soy-sauced, dried kelp. It was delicious and unexpected and completely memorable.
Unsurprisingly, my absolute favorite dish was the spicy seafood ramen, and I loved the others, so that is saying quite a lot. There is something so comforting about a steaming bowl of noodles. Säisho elevates this ramen dish with a pat of butter swimming in spicy miso broth, accompanied by tender noodles and fat, succulent shrimp, lump crab, and oysters. The broth was heavy on the miso flavor, which I love, and there was a bit of a kick.
Now, I have a raging sweet-tooth. Normally I cannot end a big meal like this without something sweet, even if it’s a square of dark chocolate or a clementine. It’s a testament to my husband that I allowed him to convince me to order salmon, his favorite fish, for dessert. And it’s a testament to Säisho that I loved it. It was prepared sous-vide, which means it is vacuum sealed in a bag and immersed in hot water for an extended period of time, and then lightly brûléed. The salmon simply melted in my mouth, bolstered by the punch of the miso paste on which it rested. Simply prepared baby brussels sprouts and turnips were an ideal accompaniment to such an astounding dish.
Downtown Mobile is lucky to have this fantastic and innovative addition to our dining scene. For fantastic cocktails and inventive cuisine with a Japanese twist, look no further than Säisho.
455 Dauphin Street
Mobile, Alabama 36602