There is no skimping at Karma Asian Fusion in Burlington. The restaurant goes through more than three pounds of caviar a week—that’s 15 tins of 100 grams each—and uses only real truffles. No truffle-flavored oil or peelings here.
That abundance of high-end ingredients is present throughout the menu, starting with the “Salmon on Fire,” an appetizer with a description that doesn’t quite do justice to the presentation—and deliciousness—of the dish. Long, thin strips of sushi-grade salmon, crusted in a pretty combination of edible flowers, fried shallots, and truffle flakes, arrive tableside draped over a spit suspended over a small pile of coffee beans. The server lights the coffee beans on fire, which gently smokes the dangling fish. If the fire doesn’t burn out on its own, drizzling the strips with accompanying fresh raspberry sauce will extinguish it. The salmon—rich, elevated by the truffles and the sweet-tart raspberries—seems like it could almost be too much, but it’s just right.
Much of the menu teeters on the precipice of too much quite successfully. Luxurious ingredients are found throughout at this, the fourth restaurant in Iverson Guo’s local empire. The restaurateur immigrated from China when he was 19 years old, with no relatives in the United States and no culinary training, then spent two-and-a-half years working for a Japanese sushi master in New York. He still maintains strong relationships with New York vendors to guarantee supplies of quality ingredients, ensuring his preparations can step well outside the bounds of traditional sushi with delicious and sometimes surprising results.
Sure, they have a classic sushi platter. Beautifully presented, it is clearly a show stopper with its mix of nigiri, sashimi, and rolls, punctuated by unique offerings like Yellowtail with Mango Coconut Dressing, which employs Thai flavors like basil and lemongrass alongside Vietnamese spices and Japanese hamachi. Karma also offers an array of hot Japanese entrées and a thoughtful selection of Chinese dishes, like Bird’s Nest Delicacies with XO Sauce and Soy Sauce Chow Mein.
But you really want the caviar and truffles, don’t you? And it doesn’t get any more luxurious than Otoro with Caviar Truffle nigiri—two delicious nuggets of high-quality bluefin tuna, wrapped around rice and topped with both caviar and truffles, then flecked with 24-karat edible gold flakes. It packs so much into a few bites, you should savor it. Meditate on it. It will linger on in such a delicious way, you might just be sated right there. But there’s another small bite that demands your attention: the Otoro Explosion hand roll—a petite cone filled with rice, uni, high-quality bluefin otoro, ikura (Japanese salmon roe), and caviar. Layers and layers of flavors, from the pop of the caviar, the unctuous uni, and the rich, delicate otoro, come together in an intriguing way.
While one could say there is no such thing as enough caviar, there are caviar-free nigiri offerings that deserve attention. Try the King Salmon with Kale—silky salmon contrasts in a surprising way with the crisp bitterness of the kale and a pop of crumbled rice crackers, all pulled together with a cilantro sauce.
You could have mochi for dessert, or you could enjoy a glass from the centerpiece of the restaurant’s drinks program: top-shelf Japanese whiskey. Karma also offers a broad selection of sake and craft cocktails, as well as wine and beer. The Dowager Wu, a blend of gin, lemongrass, mandarin orange leaf, and lemon, topped with sparkling wine, is a lovely accompaniment to just about any of the sushi offerings on the menu.
The restaurant has a lively bar scene, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when a DJ spins the music, creating an international dance-party vibe. And rest assured, there is always enough caviar to go around.
75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-365-0687, burlington.karmaasianfusion.com