Tanked fish are often a default dining room décor item in the restaurant biz; a living bauble with a maintenance contract that fills the void left by enervated imaginations. You see them everywhere, mostly in salty water, flaunting their Day-Glo color schemes through a maze of rocks, vegetation and sometimes real coral, without those clam-shelled treasure chests or plastic divers barfing bubbles.
But Euphoria, that downtown tri-level nightclub-cum-raw fish saunter, has a tank behind its sushi bar to rival all tanks. This hole is the Neptune of nautical niteries. Weighing in at a full 1,500 gallons, Euphoria's fish tank is a strange assembly consisting of two large rectangular tank units joined by a long Plexiglas tube--a watery docking station inserted into nightclub orbit so that exotic marine life can study Dallas' exotic lizard life.
And exotic these explorers are. Not since Tiberon, a watering hole on Greenville Avenue that had a huge tank of sharks swimming behind the bar, has tropical fish décor been so bold. This installation harbors a large lion fish, several parrot fish (who drop to the bottom like dandruff flakes and lie flat when nightclub living gets too stressful) and a 4-foot, $1,200 moray eel. The slithery eel, vested in a green the color of bottled margarita mix, spends most of its time hidden among the coral and the rocks at the bottom of one tank. Every now and again executive chef Roger Man tosses in a few scraps of shrimp, calamari or scallop to rouse the snaky fish. In between bites, the eel takes a few swipes at a listing parrot fish. "He ate the two rock cod we had in the tank," Man says, adding that the restaurant plans to replace them with a pair of tiger sharks, who might have better self-defense skills.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the dead fish chilling in the sushi bar display case are not as compelling as the marine life behind the bar. There is no sushi exotica like uni slithering in this chill bin.
So Euphoria sticks to the basics. And the basics drift from average to sub par, mostly. Tuna and smoked salmon were warm and stringy. Yellow tail was warm and slightly fishy. The octopus was fine, but it, too, was a little tepid. Does this place throw off that much nightclub heat?
Not everything suffered from such tepidness, though. The mackerel was cool, briny and supple (mackerel shavings flaunt assertive fishiness, so any untoward rise in temperature would have been coma conducive). But the caterpillar roll, a huge segmented curved log with toasted freshwater eel and cucumber encased with avocado and dribbled with eel sauce, was delicious. Crab-stuffed salmon, a hump of suggestive salmon folds draping a tangle of shredded surimi, was also tasty.
And so are other offerings. Eel (freshwater, not the marine kin of the swanky slitherer behind the bar) was tender and slightly sweet. Seared tuna was cool, with a textural tension (silky and smooth crimson interior mingled with the slightly stiffened seared gray edge) on the tongue. Red snapper sashimi was compelling: A ring of snapper slices pricked with a dot of chili paste hovers in a pool of ponzu sauce. A hornets' nest of shredded daikon radish is plunged in the center while an origami form of cucumber folds rests off to the side.
Yet even with a long sushi bar, Euphoria is a nightclub, primarily. It has lots of polished metal, concrete floors, lighted bar surfaces, a glassed-in disc monkey booth hovering above the front doors (with a Plexiglas floor so that you can check out the sole-wear on the DJ's shoes) and a mirror ball. On the upper level, the expanse that harbors the fish tanks and the sushi bar, there is a crowd of high-backed suede chairs in garish hues such as bad-suit blue, blood orange red, Dreamsicle orange and newborn-poop yellow. These chairs huddle around plastic tables in fanny-pack pink and bike-shorts orange.
Chef Man, a Vietnamese refugee who has put in time at the defunct Sushi Nights, Deep Sushi and Citizen, says he plans to roll out an Asian fusion menu to complement the sushi within the next few months. There are also plans to open additional nightclub space on the roof, which means you could probably pelt the valet with an eel roll slice if your aim is good.
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