If you are a sushi fan, life in Tulsa is good, and getting better all of the time.
I can remember as recently as 15 years ago, when my wife and I were dating, the only place I could take her to introduce her to sushi in Tulsa was at 71st and Memorial. For people who lived in the Florence Park area, you had to pack a lunch for the drive out there.
Today, a quick Google search for Sushi in Tulsa brings up approximately 25 places in Tulsa and the immediate surrounding area. So it's not unusual to go for a period of time and not even hear about a new sushi place in town.
Such is the case for me, since I was not familiar with Sake Sushi and Japanese at 68th and Memorial. (They've been there for more than a year now.) Admittedly that's not my favorite intersection to venture out to, but a new sushi bar is worth a trip. So, on a Friday night, we did just that.
Ordinarily, live music is a staple on Fridays, but the band had a previous commitment for a wedding reception. We actually enjoyed the peace and quiet as it gave us a chance to ask questions and enjoy each other's company.
People eat with their eyes first. Based on that, this should be the most delicious food on the planet.
The presentation is exquisite, and it's hard to take that first plunge into a new plate. It's sort of like poking a hole in a fine painting. Unfortunately, the flavors -- while good -- don't match the presentation when it comes to the actual sushi and the rolls. The key is in the rice.
I won't belabor that point because in the whole scheme of things, while an important factor, it was not a deal breaker.
We started with the Creamy Shrimp appetizer. At $5.95, this was a great deal!
Five large shrimp were wrapped in a won-ton skin with seasoned cream cheese and then deep-fried. They were crispy, hot and fresh, and the sweet chili sauce with it was a perfect dipping sauce. At the time we ordered, they were in the back making the weekend's supply, so I am positive they are made in-house. A definite must.
The second appetizer we tried was just as good -- Baked Green Mussels.
New Zealand green-lip mussels are seasoned and baked on the half shell, then drizzled with a sweet, teriyaki-like sauce. Hot and bubbly, they were a nice departure from standard sushi house appetizers. Both went perfectly with a cold Sapporo.
A cup of miso soup was hot and flavorful. Our server was a great consultant and assured me that it was made in-house as was almost every other item on the large menu. It was laced with fresh mushrooms and poached seaweed. It is always surprising how filling miso soup can be. It's a base of soy bean paste and water, simmered and then enhanced with meat, fish or vegetables.
Next, we ordered a Tako Salad and a seaweed salad. Tako is lightly cooked octopus in a chef's choice of dressing -- our favorite is ponzu sauce, which unfortunately this wasn't, but it was good anyway.
It is often served over thin sliced cucumbers or shredded, pickled seaweed. Garnished with sriracha, a Thai red chili and garlic paste, it becomes a Spicy Tako Salad. Fortunately for my wife, who is very sensitive to heat, it can be ordered sans the spicy part.
My seaweed salad was excellent. Maybe the best I have ever had. It had a nice sweet/sour flavor with just the right amount of sesame oil for a great smoky undertone. I really recommend it. For $3.50, that and a bowl of the miso soup at $1.50 would make a nice lunch for anyone at a bargain price.
A sampling of sushi, the simple combination of small slices of fish and rice was good. We tried the salmon, which was silky and fresh, and also what they listed on the menu as a seasonal item, the fatty tuna.
Fatty tuna (toro) is from the underside of the fish, in other words the belly area, and normally very hard to get since it makes up a very small portion of the animal. As a matter of fact, if you are not in a coastal area of the country, it is doubtful that you can get it, so I was surprised to see it on the menu.
It is very high in marbling, and the really good stuff literally melts in your mouth and has a higher tuna flavor profile. This, while good, was probably not strictly defined as fatty tuna. I probably wouldn't pay the $12.95 sticker price again for it, especially when the salmon held its own at $3.75.
The East Bay Roll was very good and at $8.95 was a good value. If you are not familiar with a sushi roll, it is a combination of rice, fish and vegetables, inside a sheet of roasted pressed seaweed (nori), a soy wrapper or thin sliced vegetables such as cucumber. It is then rolled up, pressed in a bamboo mat to compress it (that's why your rice has to be sticky) and sliced into one or two bite pieces depending on how polite you are trying to be.
A hand roll is made by shaping the sheet of nori into a cone of sorts after it is filled with ingredients and handed to the diner who then eats it much like an ice cream cone. As mentioned earlier, everything was beautiful and beautifully presented.
The East Bay is a combination of Yellowtail, crab, asparagus, tuna and roasted garlic flakes shaken on top. Yellowtail is in the jack family, as is tuna and, often, it is called Hamachi.
Hamachi is technically yellowtail but only the farmed version. It is so rich and high in fat that soy sauce will not stick to it, and experts recommend ponzu sauce instead. Made from the yuzu fruit, a citrus of sorts, ponzu is used heavily in Japanese cuisine. It is available in many groceries and all Asian markets.
We finished with a Pacific roll, a combination of tuna, salmon, avocado and crab wrapped in thin sheets of cucumber. It's always a little hard to eat the ones wrapped in cucumber, and as usual, I found myself eating this one piece at a time, which rather takes away the whole point of a roll. None the less, it was fresh and good, and both the rolls were a reasonable value at $8.95 each.
Sushi or japonica rice is a short grain, very starchy and sticky rice. When prepared properly, it is rinsed multiple times until the water runs clear then cooked until tender. Traditionally, it is then spread out in a bamboo box and enhanced with a broth made of rice vinegar, salt and sugar, stirred until evenly coated and fanned by hand until it cools. Obviously, that is a very time consuming practice and not usually done in this country.
What is of paramount importance is that the rice be flavored with the salt, sugar and vinegar mixture, or it will actually detract from the subtle flavor of the fish rather than enhancing it.
It was hard to choose from the many traditional Japanese (and a few Korean and Chinese) appetizers, salads, noodle bowls, fried rice dishes, entrees, combo dinners, sushi, sashimi and rolls available on the menu. It's big. The lunch and dinner menus are sort of mixed together, so it took a minute to figure it all out, but with the help of waitress, I was able to sort through it. Her customer service was excellent, and she added to an already very pleasant experience. Other servers, I noticed were interactive as well.
The décor is very comfortable with large marble topped tables and modern fixtures. A 300-plus gallon fish tank separates the entry from the dining room, and everyone is greeted in Japanese by the sushi chefs when they enter and bade farewell as they leave.
It's a nice experience and definitely worth a visit.
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