A Sensu, which translates into "folding fan," is the most recent occupant in a space that seems to be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining tenants. This location is, while a mere block off the main 71st Street shopping and dining drag, not the best for success. I've dined at two other restaurants in this spot, and neither lasted long.
For A Sensu, I hope it does last. This is a fine little treasure of a restaurant behind the QuikTrip and Sonic just off 71st Street, between Memorial Drive and Mingo, specializing in Japanese cuisine and sushi. The atmosphere is simple, with a few large folding fans adorning the walls and chopsticks noticeably placed at each table setting. Mellow Asian music quietly saturates the air.
Finding a dining companion who is fond of sushi was my first task, and we made our way to A Sensu one weekday evening. A few tables were occupied when we arrived round 7:30pm, and a number of other diners arrived while we were there.
We spent time reviewing the menu, which, like many sushi menus, can be oppressively difficult to decipher. Nigiri Sushi (two pieces), Maki Sushi/Sushi Roll (pieces pieces), Temaki/Hand Roll (one hand roll), Sashimi, Sashimi Combo (five to seven different kinds) and Sushi Combo (with soup) are the offerings. Just by way of example, types of the more than 20 Nigiri sushi include crab, mackerel, octopus, flounder, W. tuna, shrimp, Cuttle fish, sea eel, F.W. eel, salmon, tuna, Yellow Tail, scallop, fish egg, salmon roe, S. shrimp, sea urchin, fatty tuna egg, Surf clam and bean curd skim.
Dinners are just as attention getting. Appetizers include Age (Fried Tofu), Yakitori (chicken on skewers), Gyoza (meat dumpling), Ika Tempura (sushi Squid), Chicken Tempura and Shrimp Tempura. Eleven varying dinners are offered, including rice, miso soup and salad. A few examples are tempura, vegetarian or shrimp and vegetables, and Yaki Sakana (grilled fish), which comes with vegetables tempura. Prices range from $7.95 for the Vegetarian Sukiyaki dinner to the Sashimi Dinner (an assortment of fish and vegetables tempura) for $20.95. A child's plate ($6.25) consists of Chicken Teriyaki, plus miso soup, rice, shrimp and vegetables tempura. Family dinners are featured for four persons.
After a thorough review of the menu, with the help of our server, we decided on our dinner. One part of the menu is devoted to A Sensu Boat Dinners, which are combo dinners, lettered A, B, C and D. All boat dinners are served with miso soup, salad and rice, and include a fine assortment of sushi and other specialties.
I went with Boat A ($22.95), which included Gyoza, beef and chicken teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, four pieces of California roll, one piece magura sushi, one piece tako sushi and one piece ebi sushi. This is a lot of food, but when I asked my server about splitting this with my dining companion, he recommended that if I'm hungry, I could handle it. (As it turned out, while I was extremely hungry this particular evening and while all items on this boat were most delicious, it would have been impossible for me to have consumed this amount of food in one setting. Sharing this boat would mean adding a $4 plate charge.)
My friend chose The Combo ($13.95) from the Sushi Combo menu, which includes Kappa, Maguro, Hamachi and Chef's Choice. This also comes with miso soup. He also ordered the Seaweed Salad ($5.95).
We began with Fried Tofu ($4.70), which came in small rectangular shapes. They were tender and lightly crisp on the edges and appeared to have been dipped in a light egg mixture. The presentation was clever, as they were stacked in varying angles on the plate, forming a mound of tofu.
We also had the Ika Tempura ($6.95). This tempura-battered squid was cut into small strips and gently fried. They were tender and light and came with a cabbage salad (red and white) and a light bed of greens with a white creamy dressing. The veggies were a fine contrast to the squid.
My Boat Dinner was served in a good-sized plastic boat, presented beautifully. The Gyoza, which our server said were filled with ground beef, green pepper, carrot and egg plant, went first. The tempura vegetables were very good--light and fresh. The beef and chicken teriyaki were rich with flavor and tender. Among the sushi rolls, the California is always a favorite with me (crab, avocado, cucumber). The miso soup, salad and rice although served first, were almost an afterthought. The soup was particular tasty--light, yet rich in flavor.
My friend thoroughly enjoyed his sushi combo. The Kappa Maki (or cucumber roll) was refreshing and lightly crisp, he said. The Maguro (or tuna) was even better, the tuna being extremely fresh. The seaweed salad was something he had never tasted before. The seaweed texture is difficult to describe--the texture is most attractive with its rubbery, yet crunchy and crispy nature.
Our server asked, "on a scale of one to 10, how hot would you like it?" Eight was what we ordered, and while hot, we would have been able to handle the 10. The harmonious blending of ingredients for this salad (which usually includes rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds and chili flakes) was fabulous. And, the said health benefits are good as well--apparently the seaweed is great for hair improvement, especially the shafts and ducts of the scalp; other benefits (because of the seaweed's vitamins and minerals) include assisting with metabolism, maintaining youthful skin color and mental alertness.
A Sensu has all the makings for success; I just hope the location does not keep sushi lovers away.
7123 S. 92nd E. Ave.
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