It seems that when I travel, I not only experience the local culture and authentic traditions, but I also see how styles from other parts of the world are influencing an area and being integrated well. Usually one sees this in the food and restaurants, especially if you’re in a metropolitan area like London, New York City, or in my case, Milan, Italy. At the beginning of April I arrived in Milan for my first time and celebrated my 30th birthday with friends who live there and took me for dinner to their favorite sushi restaurant in Milan, called Iyo Sushi.

I love sushi for its great taste, beautiful presentation, and the unique dining experience it creates with others. Eating it where you can literally see that it’s brought in fresh, like in San Francisco down by the wharf or in Japan, is certainly the ideal situation. However, I’ve never been one to hesitate eating it even in places far from the sea and where you can’t really be sure of how “fresh” the fish is. Some of my favorite and best sushi experiences I’ve ever had have been in places like Telluride, Colorado, Chicago, and now I can add to my list Milan.

With my friends Marilena and Flavio and Anne and Filippo, we arrived at the restaurant to be greeted by the owner who knows Flavio and Marilena thanks to how much they frequent the place. We all talked with him about the upcoming wedding of Flavio and Marilena and about Flavio’s big house music that he is known for as “Harley and Muscle“. Jokes ensued and laughs were exchanged as the owner kindly showed us to our table, walking us through the restaurant and into a room on the side.

I loved how the colors were soft and simple, mainly black and brown with the grey tones of the concrete walls adding a flair for the industrial look. The lighting was fantastic, coming from large bare glass bulbs that hung throughout the restaurant and along the large windows set along one wall. Bottles of wine decorated random walls, set in circular holders. My favorite features were the panels of rust-red brick dispersed among the concrete walls and windows and especially the unique brick wall separating our room from another seating area. This wall was entirely of brick, only one brick thick, with the bricks laid out like a checkerboard so that you could see into the other room through the small openings naturally created. It was simple, yet had a fun and beautiful effect on the space. In addition to all this, small and large candles adorned the tables and furniture pieces, adding that soft natural light and beauty.

Once seated, we immediately began with the traditional appetizer of edamame, along with a recommended serving of large fried shrimps. Delicious cocktails accompanied this and once we wet our appetite with these, the procession of food began! Now, as much as I would like to recall actual names of all the different dishes and sushi we had, I cannot. I know that somewhere in the course of our meal we had their version of a “Spicy Tuna Roll”, which was fantastic with just the right kick of spice! Not only did all the food and sushi taste fresh and amazing, but the presentation was an art in and of itself. The bright colors of each piece and roll came to us laid out in creative shapes and patterns, one was even made to look like the body of a large lobster. There was not a roll of sushi or dish that I didn’t like and we enjoyed quite a bit of their menu. That is what can also be fun about eating sushi, is that you can try so many different kinds as you share different rolls with friends. For salads, we each got their seaweed salad that was light and savory, sprinkled with sesame seeds and of the perfect texture in your mouth – not too soggy and with a slight fresh crispness to the dark green tendrils. As we shared roll after roll, we accompanied it with a wonderful bottle of white wine that Flavio expertly chose. To keep up with the ongoing sushi dishes, we enjoyed sharing a couple of those as well.

Some say that sushi fills them up at some point, but that soon after they are hungry again. There was no possibility of that happening at this dinner for any of us since we enjoyed so much sushi and then topped everything off with a grand finale of desserts that were not only beautiful, but also fantastically delicious. My personal choice for my birthday was one made of chocolate, chocolate, and…you guessed it…more chocolate. We all shared of each other’s choice of dessert, passing them around the table just as we had done with the sushi that was no long gone.

Iyo Sushi Restaurant was a fantastic experience. The atmosphere and decor were stylish and beautifully modern, the service was friendly and carried out well, and all the food was fresh and creatively delicious. While I do not know first-hand as much about the history of the restaurant, I did learn that the owner and head-chef are Japanese and that they receive their fish flown in each day fresh from Japan. According to all I tasted, I can believe this. When I return to Milan, I will definitely make sure to enjoy another dinner there and I cannot thank my friends enough for the wonderful birthday dinner experience they gave me there. It was a wonderful gift!

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