Monday, 13 August 2012

The Sushi Guide

Many of you are already seasoned sushi fans, but several of you have been hesitant to try it. Maybe the thought of raw fish turns your stomach? I was like you, but somehow, someway sushi has become a staple in my diet.

For those of you refusing to try sushi because of the whole “raw fish” thing, there is good news: There is such an animal as “cooked sushi.” It is actually quite common, and I know several people that eat it exclusively. Look for “tempura” rolls, as this denotes that the fish has been battered and deep fried before going into the roll. You can also go with a standard “California roll,” which usually includes cooked crab meat. However, I am a big fan of raw sushi. Once you get comfortable with the cooked versions, try some raw (just don’t decide to try raw when eating at a Chinese buffet…been there, done that, and the result is not pretty). Oh, and one more thing,  do not try to take “bites” out of a piece of sushi. Learn from my experience that it is better to just put the whole piece in your mouth all at once (not a good time to be lady-like).

So you are wondering how to choose a good sushi restaurant? (Especially if you plan to go raw). Obviously, one of the best ways to find a good sushi restaurant is to ask someone that eats sushi (particularly if they eat raw sushi). Enter me.

My first experience with raw sushi (outside of the whole Chinese buffet fiasco), was with Sushi Neko in Oklahoma City. Sushi Neko is great for both first time and seasoned sushi goers. The sushi is fresh, and they have an awesome deal called a “boatload of sushi,” which is a ton of different types of sushi all laid out on a small boat placed in the middle of your table (around $40, but enough to feed 3 people). You probably won’t be able to finish it between two people, but it is a great way to try several different types of sushi without having to order a whole roll (rolls are around $6 each). Sushi Neko is not the most flavorful option, nor does it have the best customer service. On a positive note, they  do denote which sushi rolls are raw, and which are cooked, directly on the menu (making ordering much easier for those of you that stick to cooked rolls). In addition, they have a very large selection for those of you looking to try something new. 

While in Miami Beach this year, my husband and I tried Sushi Siam, which was very fresh and also had a “boatload” of sushi. (It was recommended by some locals). It was pretty good, but the service was terrible.

Recently, we traveled to downtown Dallas for a short weekend stay. While there, I wanted to get some sushi, so we asked several locals their recommendation. The hotel mentioned that the sushi restaurant across the street (Dallas FishMarket) was good, but Zenna was the best. In fact, almost every local we asked recommended Zenna. We decided to make the trek to Zenna’s for their “sushi Happy Hour,” which included $3 sushi rolls, and $1 sushi pieces. The service was pretty bad, but it’s hard to complain when your entire bill is $15. It was some of the freshest, most flavorful sushi I have ever tasted. It was so good, in fact, that we went again before we went home. 

For comparison reasons, we also tried the sushi at Dallas Fish Market while we were there. We had high expectations based on the menu prices (one roll was around $10-$13), but were incredibly disappointed. The fish was not only not-fresh, but the service was terrible. The fish tasted like it was either a) going bad, or b) was a bottom feeder. Needless to say we informed the front on our way out. They were kind enough to insist on giving our money back.

I have been craving sushi ever since Zenna in downtown Dallas, so we decided to try another Oklahoma City sushi restaurant, “In TheRaw.” In the Raw has quickly become my favorite, and I have now ate there two weekends in a row. In my opinion, they have a better vibe and a more personal experience than Sushi Neko. Their sushi is fresh and flavorful, and their prices are reasonable ($5-$7 per roll). They do not have the selection that Sushi Neko has, but their service and sushi is better (in my opinion, of course). At both Sushi Neko and In The Raw, it is preferable that you make a reservation (although I have walked-in and got a table at both), as their tables fill up fast (particularly on the weekends). 

My Recommendation: 

If you are a first-time sushi goer, and not yet ready to try the raw stuff, go with Sushi Neko. Their boatload of sushi is great if you want to experience some raw sushi, but do not know what to order, and the menu makes it easy to choose between cooked and raw sushi. If you are not afraid to try some raw sushi, or even if you only eat cooked, In The Raw is a must. Their menu is smaller, and a bit less overwhelming, and their sushi is fantastic. 

Overall Rating:
Sushi Neko- 7
In The Raw- 9
Zenna- 10
Dallas Fish Market- 1

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