PANAMA CITY BEACH — Boatyard’s Executive Sushi Chef Slade Christmas doesn’t usually come in for lunch, but I was able to catch him on a recent Thursday after he lent a hand to Executive Chef Konrad Jochum.
Off the beaten path for spring breakers, the dining room was filled with a private lunch party, while a few regulars sat at the outside bar. Chef Slade, aka “Sushi Slade,” serves sushi beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the Boatyard, 5323 N. Lagoon Drive, but was happy to prepare a couple of plates for me after the party.
“It’s cool; Konrad kind of gives me freedom to do stuff. His favorite is the Sashimi Capaccio, does one or two a night,” said Chef Slade, as we looked over his sushi menu that he is about to expand for the fourth time. “My personal favorite is the Banana Spider. It’s unique with a lot of fruit. Combinations you wouldn’t normally tend to think of, we like to do here.”
You can even get sushi deconstructed in the Horizon Bowl.
“The chirashi sushi is scattered sushi with fish and veggies over rice,” Chef Slade explained. “It’s basically a cold stir fry over rice.”
He prepared the “Konrad portion” of the Sashimi Carpaccio with three extra pieces of the thin sliced yellowfin, tuna, salmon and yellow tail wrapped like a flower on a bed of arugula with lemon and lime vinaigrette, then drizzled with white truffle oil and parmesan.
“I like arugula. It has a nice peppery flavor and works well with the sushi,” said Chef Slade, who also made me some of his Garlic Soy Sauce to try. “I make a few different sauces.”
The sashimi appetizer, large enough to make a meal on, was “beautiful,” as one diner commented when we walked onto the deck.
“I’m kind of a big deal and super humble,” joked Chef Slade, 24, who is able to pull off such phrases with a likeable charm. (A new father, he also is quick to show off a pic of his son, Jett Avery Christmas.)
The fish was clean and refreshingly light. And though I did mix soy and wasabi for dipping, I preferred the garlic soy with the tuna sashimi.
“All the tuna we used in the whole restaurant is sushi grade,” said Chef Slade, who will sell it to you from the restaurant if you want to make your own.
He gives hands-on sushi demonstrations at Somethin’s Cookin’ in Panama City.
“I do 101 classes and 102 classes,” said Chef Slade, whose next class is Saturday. “Pretty much anybody who’s never rolled sushi before, can walk in and I can teach them what’s going on.”
He trained for 11 months under Chef Dan Pettis, who now owns One 20, A Modern Bistro in Niceville. Since becoming the executive sushi chef, Slade has made his own additions, but the Millionaire chef roll has remained unchanged.
“It’s everything a millionaire would eat — lobster, steak and caviar. The same way Dan did it, I do it, the original,” he said. “I like to add on to the menu, don’t really like taking things off of it.”
The roll is filled with lobster, masago, kimchee, mint, arugula, caviar and topped with paper thin sliced steak and a pickled ginger aoili. Hearty and light, money has never tasted so good. A sushi lover, who enjoys beef and seafood, I finally got my fill.
“I have no problem accommodating people,” he said.
His landlords, Jeremy and Ashley Adams, asked him to come up with something for them one day at the restaurant.
“Then they would come in every time and order the same thing,” said Chef Slade, who added their rolls to the menu. “They now have a contest between the rolls to see which is most popular.”
The Ashley Adams Roll is filled with lobster, mango and cucumber then topped with avocado and served with a Garlic Soy Sauce, while the Jeremy Adams Roll is stuffed with tuna, krab and mango and topped with fresh arugala and spicy krab and lobster salad.
Chef Slade also sells a lot of Fiji Rolls — spicy tuna, krab, cucumber, fresh mango and avocado topped with a spicy krab and lobster salad. But his claim to fame, he said, is his signature Banana Spider roll with fried softshell crab, bananas, mango and cucumber topped with tuna and served with a creamy vanilla mango lobster sauce.
Chef Slade measures how many sushi rolls he makes per night by the amount of rice he uses.
“I typically use 8 to 14 pounds of rice per night, but I used 23 pounds of rice on New Year’s. It was nuts,” he said.
On Thursdays, except on Little Black Dress nights, guests can get half price sushi on select rolls from 5-8 p.m.
“I like to pair it with sake,” said Chef Slade, who likes doing infused sake, such as with cucumber or coconut. “The nigori is unfiltered sake, milky and sweeter, served chilled. Our sake is high enough quality to be served warm or chilled.”
What: Boatyard’s Executive Sushi Chef Slade Christmas gives hands-on sushi demonstration, when guests can make two rolls a piece — California and tuna
When: 10:30 a.m. March 16
Where: Somethin’s Cookin’, 93 E. 11th St., Panama City
Reservations and pricing: (850) 769-8979
More Boatyard flavor: Chef Konrad will be back at Somethin’s Cookin’ on April 6, preparing his Red Fish Etouffee and other specialties.
Save the dates
St. Patrick’s Day Brunch is 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 17 at the Boatyard with traditional Irish folk with the Tinkers. Boatyard’s last Little Black Dress until the fall is at 7 p.m. March 21. This month’s theme is Masquerade Ball, so don a mysterious mask with your LBD. Details: BoatyardClub.com or 249-YARD (9273).