I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I often find myself guilty of judging a restaurant by its name/logo. And assumptions doing what they do, this means that I am sometimes quite surprised by what I find inside. I ♥ Sushi is the most recent example. Based on the name, I’d figured they were an order-at-the-counter kind of place. One where you would eat fairly quickly–a good lunch place, but nothing fancy. That impression lasted exactly as long as it took for the hubby and I to walk through the door of the Madison location. I had a heartbeat to take in the sleek red and black decor surrounding a long bar before the hostess appeared to guide us to our table.
Once seated we were handed several heavy, leather bound menus and it was all I could do not the gape as I took in my surroundings. The long bar was mirrored by a long table, several party rooms took up one side of the restaurant, while booths with high backs and cushy leather seats took over the center. On the side opposite the party rooms was another long bar, this one a sushi bar providing a front row seat to the chefs at work.
I did eventually manage to drag my attention away from the fine details of the decor (mesh screens between the booths to create a more intimate feel, overly high tables, deliciously squishy seats…) to examine the menu. With a name like I ♥ Sushi, I’d figured the menu would have…sushi. And maybe some teriyaki as a sop for the non-sushi eaters in a party. What I discovered instead was a fully fleshed out menu. Yes, there were three pages of sushi, including some special combos, but there were also combination plates, salads, entrees, noodles, and don buri (over rice) dishes. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Japanese place with a dedicated salad section to its menu before, so that was rather novel.) The menu also included a kids menu and a note that gluten free and low sodium soy sauces were available.
After taking in all the options, I selected the pork ramen while the hubby went for a California roll and a spicy tuna roll. Our food came out quickly, my ramen (shown at the top of this post) smelling absolutely divine.
The broth was salty and had the color of beef broth. Tender slices of pork reminded me of the barbqued pork you often find at Chinese restaurants, with the more cooked ring around the outer edge and an undeniably porky flavor. The spinach was fresh, though not surprisingly it was slightly wilted from the heat and had the texture of boiled spinach. Long pieces of green onion lent some crunch, but the real star of crunch was the bean sprouts which also sported a light, fresh flavor. Eating these made me realize how underutilized sprouts really are.
The hard boiled egg was an odd dark brown color on the exterior and was extremely salty. The running theory is that it was cooked/soaked in the broth and picked up both the color and salt levels that way. Slices of fish cake added a bright color, though they tasted decidedly not fishy. Whether this is good or not will depend on your love of fishy flavors. Instead they had a neutral flavor and a firmly gelatinous texture. The ramen noodles were listed on the menu as fresh and they certainly delivered. Thin and round, they had the same slight give that freshly made pasta has. I shall have to be careful though, instant ramen is a comfort food from my childhood and dishes like this are apt to forever ruin it for me.
The hubby’s sushi was nicely presented on a wooden slab. He pronounced the California roll “about average” but the spicy tuna roll “very good”. I was busy being enamored of the tiny clay pitcher which held the soy sauce.
Throughout our meal, soft instrumental music played in the background. It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that I even realized they had a TV (above the cooking area), because it wasn’t visible from our booth.
I ♥ Sushi is the perfect sort of place for date night. Fancy feeling ambiance, a full bar, delicious food, and reasonable prices. We are eager both to head back and to try the one in Jones Valley. You know, for, uh, scientific purposes. *Ahem* One word of warning though, expect there to be a crowd. We came in late on a Sunday and the restaurant was easily 1/3 full. I suspect Friday and Saturday nights and the lunch hour are crazy busy.
Total for the meal: $24.14 (Included one pork ramen, two sushi rolls, one soft drink)
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