Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Pop goes the sushi

Posted on Tue, Mar 2, 1999 at 4:00 AM

Except for the music, we liked almost everything about Sushi House, which is so tiny it might as well be called Sushi Nook. Please, please, we silently begged through an otherwise fine dinner, make someone turn off the Japanese pop versions of Kylie Minogue and Devo tunes.

But if you can stomach peppy music with indecipherable lyrics, the rest is highly palatable. The sushi is luscious and ocean fresh. Team some Kirin beer with the natural resources for a satisfying combination that we enjoyed on our visit.

Sushi House is unassuming in contrast to its high-profile neighbor, the Outback Steakhouse. Both are in a shopping "island" on the outer fringes of the Florida Mall property. The steak aromas were tantalizing as we made our way through the parking lot. But we got over any temptations once we stepped inside Sushi House. There we found a microcosm of delicate colors and culinary simplicity, based on a menu of sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and traditional Japanese (soba) noodle dishes.

Oddly, the waitress left only one menu at our table. We tried sharing, but then my friend got another one from the vacant hostess station. When the waitress came to take our orders, my friend said he was leaning toward the "sushi deluxe" sampler entree ($16.95), but we needed a few more minutes to decide.

About 10 minutes later, the waitress delivered the "sushi deluxe" to my guest and asked if I had decided on an entree. This was strange, but I went ahead and placed my order. Then we shared his entree as an appetizer while we waited for the rest of the food. The sampler was an extensive collection of California rolls combined with a dozen varieties of tuna, yellowtail, whitefish, octopus, crab, smelt roe and more. All of the preparations were exquisite and fresh.

About 15 minutes later, out came my tempura seafood combination ($14.95), a delicately battered and fried collection of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, scallops and shrimp. We also savored the sushi made with grilled teriyaki pork ($3.75). And among dozens of choices for sushi a la carte, we particularly liked the "dragon roll," a rich taste of eel, avocado, roe and cucumber ($7.50).

Despite the cheesy pop music and the service mistake, we'll return to sample more of the menu the next time we're in the area. Among the crop of small, family-owned Japanese restaurants near the south Trail, the cuisine at the Sushi House holds its own and then some.

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