Anaba offers welcoming authentic Japanese cuisine on Northshore Drive

The moment you step inside the doors of Anaba, you’re greeted with a warm “Irasshai,” Japanese for welcome, from the team of chefs behind the sushi bar, led by General Manager Young Woo Cha, 32, who’s been with Anaba for 10 years.

“I make sushi. I do everything,” says Cha, who came to the U.S. from Seoul, South Korea, as a boarding student in his sophomore year at the Kings Academy in Seymour, where he was a midfielder in soccer. He then played forward at Maryville College under Head Coach Pepe Fernandez while majoring in finance and accounting. Cha also worked at Anaba, starting out as a dishwasher. After graduation he stayed with Anaba, rising to be manager of the Gay Street location.

“We are genuine Japanese cuisine,” says Cha, who notes that Denso employees regularly come from Maryville for company dinner meetings. Anaba’s owner, Seisuke “Sei” Fukuoka, is a third-generation sushi chef who came to the U.S. 35 years ago from Osaka, Japan, where Suehiro, the family restaurant, continues to thrive. Though Fukuoka is 80 and “retired,” he remains actively involved with his restaurants. His nephew Koki, plying his trade at Anaba, is a fourth-generation sushi chef, working alongside Sous Chef Gee, who comes from Myanmar, of Burmese descent.

The restaurant’s aesthetic is a blend of modernity and tradition, with gray walls adorned with cast-iron Japanese-type rectangular shapes. The sushi bar, with its 13 seats, provides an intimate setting for patrons to witness the artistry of the chefs.

As you settle into your dining experience, the beverage menu invites you to start with a Nigori Cloudy Sake, known for its subtle sweet taste. “A lot of people ask for it,” says Bartender Bailey Kim. Others prefer a Koji Gold beer, made in Nashville with Japanese rice, or one of seven Japanese whiskeys on the menu.

Anaba’s menu is a celebration of Japanese flavors, offering a unique dining experience. If you’re seeking a culinary sushi adventure, try the “Trust Me.” Name the price you want to pay—say, $100—and Koki will craft a personalized masterpiece for your table. “Regular customers like to do that,” says Cha.

The Shrainbow is a vibrant display of shrimp tempura on four kinds of sashimi, shrimp, avocado, wasabi mayo, spicy mayo, eel sauce, tempura flakes, masago and green onions—a fantastic taste combination.

Seafood enthusiasts will appreciate the freshness of the oily and fatty O-Toro (Bluefin Tuna Belly) and the slightly fattier Chu-Toro (Bluefin fatty tuna). The Bluefin Tuna Roll and Chef’s Special Roll, featuring avocado and other delectable ingredients, are must-try items. The Wagyu beef atop rice adds a touch of luxury to the menu.

Anaba caters to diverse tastes with dishes like Tonkotsu Ramen, a flavorful pork broth soup with green beans, stir-fried chicken, onions, and green onions—by far the most popular item on the menu.

The pork cutlet with Japanese curry sauce is another crowd favorite, offering a satisfying blend of flavors.

To conclude the dining experience on a sweet note, Anaba presents the deep-fried tempura cheesecake—a delightful creation in which cheesecake is dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. The result is a dessert with a warm and crispy exterior and an inside like ice cream.

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