There is no sailing on the Karma Asian Fusion in Burlington. The restaurant drinks more than three pounds of caviar a week – that’s 15 cans of 100 grams each – and uses only real truffles. No truffle-flavored oil or peel here.
This abundance of quality ingredients is throughout the menu, starting with the “Salmon on Fire,” an appetizer with a description that doesn’t quite do justice to the presentation—and the deliciousness—of the dish. Long, thin strips of sushi-grade salmon, flaked in a beautiful mixture of edible flowers, sautéed shallots, and truffle chips, arrive at the side of a table-wrapped spit suspended atop a small pile of coffee beans. The server sets fire to coffee beans, which gently smoke the hanging fish. If the fire doesn’t burn on its own, sprinkling the slices with the accompanying fresh raspberry sauce will put them out. Salmon—rich in truffles and sweet raspberries—seems to be too much, but it’s absolutely true.
Much of the slate teeters on the edge of a cliff with great success. Fine ingredients are found throughout this fourth restaurant in local empire Iverson Guo. The restaurateur immigrated from China when he was 19, had no relatives in the US and no culinary training, then spent two and a half years working for a Japanese sushi expert in New York. He still maintains strong relationships with vendors in New York to ensure the highest quality ingredients are provided, ensuring that his preparations can break the boundaries of traditional sushi with delicious and sometimes surprising results.
Sure, they have a classic sushi dish. Beautifully presented, it’s clearly a show stopper with a mix of nigiri, sashimi, and rolls, punctuated by unique offerings like Yellowtail with Mango Coconut Dressing, which uses Thai flavors like basil and lemongrass along with Vietnamese spices and Japanese ham. Karma also serves a range of hot Japanese appetizers and a carefully selected selection of Chinese dishes, such as Bird’s Nest Delicacies with XO Sauce and Soy Sauce Chow Mein.
But you really want caviar and truffles, right? And it’s no more luxurious than Otoro with its Caviar Truffle nigiri – two delicious chunks of high-quality bluefin tuna, wrapped around rice and topped with both caviar and truffles, then dotted with edible 24-karat gold flakes. It’s so packed in just a few bites, you have to savor it. Meditate on it. It will go on in a delicious way, you might be sated there. But there’s another little bite that demands your attention: the Otoro Explosion hand roll – a small cone filled with rice, uni, high-quality bluefin otoro, ikura (Japanese salmon roe), and caviar. Layers and layers of flavors, from caviar bob, crunchy unicorn unctuous, rich otoro, and otoro, combine in an interesting way.
While one could say that there is no such thing as enough caviar, there are caviar-free nigiri offerings that deserve attention. Try King Salmon with Kale – silky salmon contrasts surprisingly with the crisp bitterness of cabbage and a crackle of crumbled rice flakes, all bundled with a cilantro vinaigrette.
You can have mochi for dessert, or you can enjoy a glass of the centerpiece of the restaurant’s beverage program: top-shelf Japanese whiskey. Karma also offers a wide range of handcrafted cocktails and sake, as well as wine and beer. The Dowager Wu, a mixture of gin, lemongrass, mandarin orange and lemon, topped with sparkling wine, is a great accompaniment to any of the sushi offerings on the menu.
The restaurant has a lively bar scene, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when DJs spin the music, creating an international dance party atmosphere. And rest assured, there is always enough caviar.
75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-365-0687, burlington.karmaasianfusion.com