I have been going to this restaurant since the 1980’s. It was the best sushi secret in town – at least in terms of taste, quality, variety, and value. The service always seemed a bit lacking and the décor was outdated but that all accentuated the fact that the sushi was so great since people were still willing to wait over an hour to put up with it all.
The owner (whom I know) recently sold the business. In my opinion, the new owner is currently on the path to ruining the former glory of this restaurant for the following reasons:
- The atmosphere and clientele shifted downward. The owner said it will soon be renamed “I [heart symbol] Sushi”. This place is the answer to people who wished McDonald’s sold sushi because the Kroger sushi is too expensive. The waitresses have already replaced traditional kimonos with “I [heart symbol] Sushi” t-shirts. The décor is also now gaudy-Japanese, not traditional Japanese. The new owner is a wood carver hobbyist and has decorated the place with a lot of his own fish carvings, which I think is cool, but they make the place look like a seafood tourist trap theme restaurant on the Florida coast with these gigantic wooden fish hanging everywhere. Also, there are these ultra creepy wooden face carvings that the owner supposedly did himself, that make sitting at the sushi bar way too creepy!
- The prices increased while the food quality decreased or stayed the same. Most notably, they went up for each of their most famous sushi dinner sets (they have three: the nami (simple), chu (med), and jou (deluxe) and the quality and variety of the offerings went down respectively. Instead of uni, there's the cheaper crab roe. Instead of eel, there's another tuna. Instead of tuna roll, there is california roll. The rice is not quite as good as it used to be - all I can vouche for is from a taste point of view because I'm no sushi rice master, but the taste is not as good and there's something not as good about the way it doesn't hold together the same way when you first put it in your mouth and then let it gently fell apart (no "release" itself) into little flavor grains in your mouth. You almost have to "chew" the rice ball and chew the fish and as you keep chewing, the flavors combine...like chewing a corndog if you like cornbread and hotdog. The presentation is still beautiful though and the chef I'm sure is a master as most of the simpler nigiri tasted good albeit the same issue with the rice. The slices of each fish sufficiently covered the rice balls, but ideally, they should go alittle over the ends.
- There are some quirks that to me send a very bad signal that this place is about nickel and diming customers and I'm not just talking about increasing prices while lowering offerings ...for example, you used to get a complimentary scoop of ginger or green tea ice cream at the end of the meal...now there's some rule where only an individual order that is $20 or more gets that free scoop, otherwise, its $3-something. Multiples of $20 do not apply, so a $40 check would not get you two scoops if you did not order two items that were $20. I'm scared to ask for more wasabi or ginger. Reminds me of a restaurant that charged 10 cents for an extra napkin. Then again, some grocers charge a nickel per plastic bag, so maybe it's just me - but I digress.
Anyway, there is nothing wrong with the restaurant per se, I just I think this is a business strategy of the new owner to shift away from the smaller market of sushi aficionados towards the masses who are satisfied with adequate sushi and can't really tell (nor care for) the difference. (This is what happened to the Buckhead Rusan …now they make lots of non Japanese food so the mediocre-sushi customer who comes with someone who doesn't even like sushi can order stuff like shrimp fried rice and egg rolls.)
I’m hoping that this restaurant realizes that it is on a wrong path and will revert back to the great sushi secret that it once was, but only time will tell.
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