Monday, June 18, 2012

Sacramento sushi...and the jury is out...

Sacramento sushi...and the jury is out...

American sushi. One could argue its the new taco, maybe even the new pizza.  People devote their paychecks to its aesthetic glory and salty/sweet melange of tongue-pleasing textures, and some pretend that its their claim to multicultural culinary enlightenment (there is so much to Japanese food that is non-sushi that few people I know really bother with...).  I love it, with all of my heart, oh tiny little bite sized morsel of happy time.  Hell, its the one food during my on again/off again weight watchers episodes that I think I can fit in after a fried food lunch.

I grew up on the east coast, where sushi joints were just rare enough that you had to drive to reach one.  Even while living in Oklahoma City, we found some gems out there, diamonds in the rough, where attention to quality fish and other ingredients made for donation of a well-earned $75+ check.

Enter California.  Land of, well, the California Roll, need I say much more? In the 1960s, L.A. became the starting place for Japanese sushi chefs seeking to make their fortune when the sushi craze first caught on. So, my expectations were very high.

First thing I noticed was the sheer number of sushi restaurants in Sacramento.  Almost like pizza places in New Jersey. Every other strip mall seems to have some sushi joint or another.  Mikuni's is star of the show in popularity, and the price shows.We've visited quite a few others, Wasabi's, Blue Nami, Sushimono, Samurai Sushi, Sushi Unlimited, Sushi Hook, Bento Box chains, and I'll safely say I've only been to <10% of the restaurants in the area. So this is a barely representative opinion, but this is a blog, and I'm entitled to opinions.

The selection of sushi is very broad, and you can generally find almost any type of fish.  The atmosphere is usually very casual, unlike many Japanese restaurants I've visited on the east coast/midwest. Most restaurants do offer a good selection of non-sushi items (yakitori, yuba, soba, domburi, non-sushi unagi, etc). Pretty unique and creative rolls, like the orange tree roll from Sushimono (pictured below). And most places do it the way I like it: SPICY and with a sriracha-inspired glaze. Talking my language.

Now for my gripes. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than a night out with the girls over some fishy morsels.But still:

I hate big rolls, and it seems like everything is the size of my head. If I can't pick it up and eat it without it falling apart and me looking completely foolish, I don't order it.  That eliminates about 80% of items on the menu from most places.

Everything is fried! You'd think California culture would result in promotion of healthy items.  Please stop breaking my weight watchers budget. Also, very handy of you to mask poor quality fish with fatty crispy bits. Deceit, I tell you!

Five kinds of fish on a roll (also correlating to roll size). I don't need a fish salad, just pick one or two items of aquatic fauna and highlight it with good accents.

Everything "half price." This is a recent trend I've noticed. Just pick a price and stop the deceit. I'm not going to tip you on the full price any longer, folks. Plus, I do maths all day at work, my tiny brain needs a rest and 0.5 is too much thought for after 5pm.

Get a decent wine list, for the love of everything holy. This is California. Although I do like some sake, don't get me wrong.

I've only just moved here and really haven't explored all that California has to offer, so I hope that I'll be proven wrong.  With all this being said, we really do like Sushimono because all things being equal, it doesn't break the bank. Mikuni is better sushi, but not good enough for the $$$ in comparison. But I'm underwhelmed to say the least.

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