Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar

I first went to Enso Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar back in the summer, accidentally stumbling in for some quick cocktails and a nosh – I was so blown away by the Rock Shrimp appetizer, I’ve been looking for an excuse to head back for more and see what else Enso had in store. My birthday was the perfect excuse to spend way too much money on sushi.

The ambiance is certainly impressive – however, it doesn’t make up for the absolutely mediocre, insanely overpriced “sushi” (more like fushi – fake sushi) that they offer – but back to the ambiance.

The place has a very big city sleek vibe, reminiscent of highbrow sushi restaurants I have gone to in Miami, LA and New York. Dark, sexy and VERY metropolitan, this restaurant definitely provides the ideal backdrop for an adults only night out. That is until the food was served.

When I look at a sushi menu and a “Specialty Roll” is priced around the $18 mark, you better believe that my expectations are going to be through the roof. There are sushi items I have had in the past, namely at Katsuya and Nobu, that I HAPPILY pay that kind of money for because it’s so insanely good. I figured if it costs that much, it has to be good! Wrong I was.

Although our waitress was extremely knowledgeable, nothing peeves me more than when you ask for a recommendation, and they start ranting and raving about the most expensive item on the menu. No exception here – except I cut her off mid sentence and ordered a Surf N Turf and a Crazy Red Flying Dragon Shrimpamagigy (ok, that’s not what it was really called but you get the point.) We also put in an order for Rock Shrimp (I mistakenly stopped my husband from ordering 2 orders – why do you listen to me??) and a tuna tartar.

I love tuna tartar for its cool, subtle sliminess – these were curiously perfect little squares of tuna – texture was not at all what I was expecting, and then came the heat. I am crazy about spicy food, this was borderline inedible – and since when is tartar spicy? I thought about returning it, but realized quickly my husband was going to town on the ONE ORDER of Rock Shrimp, and I was going to miss out if I didn’t move quickly.

What is it about this dish? It’s a party in your mouth – lightly breaded shrimp tossed in spicy, creamy, buffalo-ish, chipotle-esque goodness. The order is too small – order two. Sorry honey. This dish is Enso’s redemption – and worth the trip (I must say they also know how to pour a proper scotch, another highly redeeming quality).

Out comes the fushi. The Surf N Turf featured shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, topped with blue crab mix & slices of seared (aka soggy and tough) filet mignon, eel sauce and scallions. Conceptually, what a dish! Expectations were high as I love fake fusion sushi as much as the real deal. In actuality, it was a roll of mush. Soggy, pasty, bland, muddled mush. And oddly, the other roll tasted exactly the same as this one. It took one bite for me to realize this fushi had been rolled earlier that afternoon if not the day before. Disgust. Such potential I tell you, thrown by the wayside.

They did bring out a complimentary chocolate cake that was delicious. So all in all, not a total waste. If you happen to find yourself in the Epicentre (which I otherwise try and avoid at all costs), needing a cocktail and some rock shrimp, grab a seat at the bar (they play black and white bruce lee movies behind the bar which is a nice touch), get TWO ORDERS of Rock Shrimp and then get out of dodge. Quick.


@ the Epicentre
210 East Trade Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Enso on Urbanspoon


  1. I've never had a bad meal at Enso, nor have I ever thought I was overcharged. Enso has consistently provided my wife and I with an exceptional product at a fair price. I was excited to see that a local blog had written a review, somewhat shocked to hear what they had to say. I have been to Nobu in Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, New York and London; and it's good, actually very good; but under no circumstances can it be used as a barometer by which one could criticize Enso. Nobu focuses on many traditional sushi dishes, as well as some "fushi"; however most locations don't have any prices on their menus so a price comparison is almost impossible. My recollection is Nobu was 30-40% more expensive and as we foodies know prices of ingredients are going up quickly. But back to Enso. I would also contend that no place of this caliber is "pre-rolling" anything, how could you? There are far too many choices on the menu to be able to predict an order and make food a day in advance, ridiculous!! Finally I would suggest that before being unhappy with menu options and prices check out said menu online, then you know what to expect, the internet is great isn't it! Enso is located in the Epicenter in Uptown Charlotte, if you expected inexpensive food perhaps Wild Wing Cafe would have been more appropriate! If anyone takes the time to read this I would suggest the Maryland Roll, it is amazing and made with fresh lump crabmeat, if you aren't a sushi lover the Gonzo Chicken is my wife's favorite!

  2. Hi Douglas, thank you for your feedback. We've actually spent a lot of time discussing Enso. Two of us have eaten there, several times, and both of us have had different experiences (in fact, the thing we both agree on is the amazing rock shrimp tempura). I'm sure we'll go back and even have a counter-review at some point. Individual experience and taste is what makes reviewing restaurants fun, and also makes them interesting to read. In fact, if you'd like to write a more formal guest response, I'd love to include it in the blog. Just send a note via the contact us page, and I can get in touch with you about such an endeavor. ~Aurora