On the last night of World Food Championships, I met up with Chef Chris Kelly, owner of Ronin Sushi and Steak and Driftwood Bar and Grille. Chef Chris also competed in the World Seafood Championships scoring 91.125 on his structured build and 85.5 on his signature dish resulting in a total score of 88.3125 placing him 26th. He had a great time competing and is “absolutely grateful of World Food Championships for bringing business to The Wharf, Orange Beach, and showcasing local chef talent”.
Ronin Sushi and Steak was a dream that Chef Chris had 10 years ago. The concept was to take sushi in a different direction and create a new way to make it. His dream became a reality in July 2016 with Ronin Sushi and Steak’s debut at The Wharf, right next to its sister restaurant, Driftwood Bar and Grille. As you peruse the menu, you’ll clearly see Japanese techniques at work but fusion is what is really happening at Ronin. You’ll see influences from Chinese, Latin, Thai, Hawaiian, and Southern cuisines.
An item that has long been on my foodie bucket list is lionfish (p`terois) which is native to the Indo-Pacific region. But since 2000, these beautiful but invasive fish have been wreaking havoc on the local marine life along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Due to their venomous spines, these fish are considered “trash fish”, but there is a new wave of chefs that have been able to transform this trash into a delectable dish. But even though an appetite for this fish exists, they can only be caught by spear fishing, which doesn’t even make a dent in their population. A single female lionfish can release up to 2 million eggs a year!
Okay, let me get off my soap box and tell you about my first taste of lionfish. Chef Chris makes a Lionfish Roll that is truly beautiful to behold. The lionfish sashimi on top is very delicate and translucent. It has a sweet flavor and silky texture. I have never had a piece of sashimi quite like this before! He uses purple Thai sticky rice and it adds a nutty flavor, very different from Calrose rice normally used in sushi. The roll also had pork belly inside which gave each bite just the right amount of salt and added a smoky flavor. Instead of seaweed, a yuzu wrap was used and added a citrus flavor without being overwhelming. I can wait to go back in November and have another one! Rating: 5/5
Next time you are at The Wharf, you need to try Ronin Sushi and Steak! If you’re not up for lionfish, there are many other great options to try!
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars
For more information:
8651 Wharf Parkway Unit 116
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.