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Joe Putrock

Go Fish
By B.A. Nilsson

Sushi House

6 New Scotland Ave., Albany, 935-2270.
Serving Mon-Thu 11-10, Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun 11:30-9:30.
AE, D, MC, V.

Food:****
Service:
Speedy

Ambience:
Teahouse

Once an elusive luxury, sushi now graces the seafood counters of many area supermarkets in ready-to-go plastic containers. Though this practice takes the mystery out of the dish itself, it adds its own brand of mystery, to wit: Exactly when was this put together?

Nothing can replace the for-real sushi bar, where you sit facing a chilled glass divider, studying the fresh fish beyond it, watching the skill of a sushi chef who trims the seafood and arranges the rice and fashions it all into various delectable morsels.

Albany’s Sushi House, which opened two months ago, is next door to the 14-year-old China House restaurant, and both are owned and run by the Zheng family. Last year they opened the Asian Market on Colvin Avenue, the proprietorship of which we discovered quite by accident when Al, my lunch companion, was raving about the place and was overheard by one of the owners.

We visited on a recent weekday, with my young daughter also in tow, too late to compete with the lunch crowd, too early, really, for dinner. So we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Each of us began with a small bowl of miso soup, the simple but versatile dish that is the starting point of most Japanese meals (and a protein bonanza). Then the courses started to pile up. What seemed like a good idea turned into an amazing cornucopia. This is what happens when you wait too long in the afternoon for lunch.

The innocent starters were appetizer plates of yakitori ($3.25), for me, and sumai ($3.25), for Al. Yakitori is seasoned chicken, grilled on skewers, and basted with a sweet soy-and-sake sauce. Sometimes chicken livers are added to the array, but here it was a straight-ahead version with added onions and peppers, served with teriyaki sauce. Lily ate it right off the skewers, which I later learned is the Japanese style. I fussily slid each of mine off its stick before devouring it.

Sumai is a shrimp dumpling, but that hardly does justice to the dish. The dumplings are small and intricately wrapped, and the filling is ethereal, minced to a fare-thee-well, but full of flavor.

That ought to have been enough. They were reasonably sized appetizer portions, easily sating my own appetite. Then the sushi arrived.

In Al’s case it was no more than a California roll, that toothsome wrap of rice and seaweed surrounding the tasty, but improbable, combo of avocado and surimi (that pollock-based pseudo-crabmeat). But this one was finished with a spicy shrimp topping ($6), a bright orange near-purée, creamy and very spicy, the best thing to happen to a California roll.

I needed to give the sushi a try, of course, and so ordered the sushi deluxe ($12.95). “They say that when done properly,” writes chef Shizuo Tsuji, “all the rice grains face the same way. You do not squeeze the rice into wads—you merely invite the grains to cling with just the right amount of pressure.”

Six examples of the sushi chef’s art were served to me, the component fish being salmon, tuna, red snapper, crab, clam and shrimp, each resting on its bed of vinegared rice. Traditional accompaniments of fiery wasabi and refreshing gari were served, and soy sauce was provided, of course, for dipping. Lily elected to help me through this platter when she spotted the additional bonus of California roll slices, spiciness-free.

It turned out that California roll slices also accompanied the vegetable tempura I ordered for her ($6, $1 more for shrimp tempura). Not surprisingly, the batter was light, and the veggies (the usual suspects) were crisp and not at all greasy—as it should be. A small salad also accompanies the platter. You’re getting excellent value for money here.

Al murmured something to the effect that the yaki soba he’d ordered hadn’t arrived, but had to stop himself when the dish landed before him. I’m assuming that something in this dish is grilled, perhaps the darker-colored noodle strips that may well have been the buckwheat noodles (soba), with flame applied. In any event, it’s a handsome-looking cold dish, the noodles served in the hold of a decorative, boat-shaped vessel. On the forecastle is a plate of green dipping sauce; just below that a portion of fresh salad greens. It’s way underpriced at $5.50.

By this point, of course, we were finishing nothing. It was shameful. I can plead in our defense only that we were thus able to report on that many more dishes, but you should be prepared to order more sparingly.

Still, we found it in ourselves to sample two kinds of ice cream for dessert. Al got a plate of ginger ice cream, an unusual flavor that ought to be more common; we opted for the tempura ice cream, which was served in a toasted breading.

Lunch for three, with tax and tip, dessert and sodas, was $62.

Metroland restaurant reviews are based on one unannounced visit; your experience may differ.

Food Rating Key: ***** An exciting, fulfilling experience; the food and service are everything they set out to be. Brillat-Savarin would be proud. **** Way up there with really good food, definitely worth your dining dollar. Julia Child would be proud. *** Average, with hints of excitement. Your mother would be pleased. ** A dining-out bogey; food probably isn’t the first priority. Colonel Sanders would be disappointed. * K-rations posing as comestibles. Your dog would be disgusted.


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