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The vast, two-story space at the base of Elliston Place apartments has been aptly filled by Knoxville-based sushi restaurant Nama. And while there is plenty of sushi to be found at other spots nearby, Nama offers it in a fresh environment that feels stylish, buzzy, and fit for its West End location.
A large bar takes up one end of the room, and out front there’s a light-filled patio surrounded by greenery. The second-story balcony seats look like a great perch for scoping out the city streets, but they’re currently only seating private parties up there. No matter, though, since the main dining room provides ample views as well. There are cozy booths along one wall of windows in case you want a quiet dinner, or you can join the bar scene by grabbing a seat nearby at the long communal table at the center of the room.
Either way, settle in with one of the many sakes on hand. Nama’s list is both long and full of good options; take advantage of the selection with a tasting flight. When it comes time to order a bite, sashimi and rolls may be the stars here, but it’s hard not to be tempted by the menu of chef specialties, like the lime-laced, masago-topped ceviche made with whatever fresh fish is on hand that day or the shrimp egg drop soup, a peppery rendition that won the restaurant’s internal “Top Chef challenge” wherein chefs across the three Nama locations competed with original dishes. On the hot menu, check out the pineapple pork tenderloin for a play on the sweet-and-sour staple or heartier items like the spicy tuna burger.
But back to that sushi. There’s a lineup of traditional nigiri and maki plus an array of specialty and vegetarian rolls. The Soy Joy is one of their best sellers for good reason: Made with spicy tuna and seared albacore tuna, it’s the perfect mix of crunch, cream, and heat. There are also more playful items—the Maui Wowie’s crunchy shrimp is topped with slices of yellowtail and pineapple salsa, and the Orange Crunch features candied shrimp, salmon, and carrot. And while roll prices tend to run high (about $9 to $18 each), Nama offers half-price menus on Mondays and Thursdays, happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily (and all day Friday), plus an express lunch menu during the week—meaning they’ve got you covered whenever you need a raw fish fix.
2300 Elliston Pl., 615-933-6262; namasushibar.com