After my disappointing meal at Sushi Blue, I was in need of a good experience this past Memorial Day weekend to get back to my sushi love. Fortunately, Sansu Sushi in East Lansing was there to come to my rescue. I had discovered Sansu two years ago when last in the area for MediaWest*Con and retained fond memories of the wonderful food there since then. Over the course of two dinners, this past weekend, I was happy to confirm that the sushi was just as delightful as I’d remembered it being, and indeed is some of the finest I’ve had the chance to enjoy anywhere in the United Stantes.
Sansu Sushi is located in East Lansing, near the Michigan State University complex. The large student population in the area no doubt helps encourage better dining options here than in South Lansing where I was staying, but it was only a 10 minute drive through some lovely farmland to get to the restaurant from my base at the Causeway Bay Hotel. Sansu Sushi is a spacious restaurant featuring regular dining tables, tatami seating, and a large 40-foot long sushi bar with 8 sushi chefs ready to fulfill your sushi desires. As I was dining solo I sat at the sushi bar both nights, where I could watch (and drool) over the many plates of beautiful sushi coming out to the other tables.
Sansu Sushi has an extensive menu, indeed with far more options I wished to sample than I had the stomach capacity to try. A few Korean dishes are offered but the emphasis is strongly on Japanese food here, with some fusion offerings as well. The appetizer list is lengthy, with many choices beyond your typical salads and miso soups. For instance, there is an “Avocado Boat” featuring an avocado stuffed with crab salad and spicy tuna, tempura battered and topped with sweet & spicy sauce ($10). Oysters, baked green mussels, charbroiled or teriyaki squid, and even “Stuffed Asian Poppers” (peppers stuffed with spicy tuna and cream cheese, tempura fried and topped with eel sauce, $9) are available. Traditional nigiri, maki and hand rolls are available along with a wide selection of specialty rolls. Some of the more unique specialties include the “Hawaiian Roll” (avocado, crab stick, salmon & pineapple wrapped in cucumber), the “Snowman Roll” (tempura shrimp, avocado & cucumber wrapped in mozzarella cheese), and the “Baked Scallop Roll” (jumbo scallop diced & baked, topped over a California roll with fusion sauce and masago.) Sansu also offers a nice selection of sakes and wines by the glass and bottle, reasonably priced, and specialty cocktails as well.
For my first dinner at Sansu Sushi, I wanted to stick with the basics. I needed to get the memory of that poor chirashi at Sushi Blue out of my head, so I ordered the Chirashi Deluxe ($21) and an Eel/Cucumber Hand Roll ($5) as an appetizer. The Chirashi came with miso soup and house green salad, both of which were excellent. Their house salad came out ice cold and crisp, with a nice mixture of mesclun greens and quality lettuce – no flavorless, nasty iceburg here. But my first moment of complete bliss was when my Eel roll arrived. Overflowing with thin sliced, delicious cucumber (and note, I normally am not a big cucumber fan), the hand roll was just perfect because the quality of the eel was impeccable. Not over-sauced, just wonderfully fresh and flavorful, hot and sweet/salty, nicely balanced by the crunchy cucumber and soft rice. I was only filled with sorrow when I’d eaten every last bite.
But then my Chirashi arrived, and my joy returned once more. Here was exactly what I’d been craving: fresh tuna, salmon, and mackerel that melted on my tongue. Shrimp and octopus that was cooked just right, not chewy or tough. Salty roe to bring balance and color to the meal. And more of that wonderful eel, thankfully, over a nice seasoned bed of rice. This was a meal that brought me a complete sense of happiness as only, truly, the best sushi can. A perfect combination of aesthetic beauty, quality ingredients, and wonderful flavor. Savored with a bottle of dry Diamond Sake (8 oz for $8), it was truly a little taste of heaven.
The next night I had to return for more – despite a tornado warning which had passed through the area that evening, leaving some afraid to go out of the hotel at all. But the storm had passed and I was not going to let the weather keep me from my return visit to Sansu’s sushi bar. For this second night, I wanted to try more of their specialties, so I started with the “Tuna Festival” appetizer ($12). This featured four different types of tuna nigiri: albacore, standard, white escolar, and “Cajun”, along with a spicy tuna roll. It was indeed a feast for tuna lovers, showcasing all the different flavors of tuna beautifully. I also had to get two more pieces of that wonderful eel, this time as standard nigiri – delightful once again. I think I could go to Sansu and just binge on their eel.
I also decided to try the New York Roll ($11) for a different flavor. This was just beautifully prepared – tuna, salmon, white fish, crabstick and avocado wrapped in cucumber. The roll was a little awkward to eat, as I’ve never tried a cucumber-wrapped roll before and it does not hold together as well as a soy or nori-wrapped roll with rice. Still, it was a nice way to just enjoy pure fresh fish without fancy, heavy sauces, and I loved the “Twin Towers” of cucumber on the plate to give it that New York Theme.
Both nights at Sansu Sushi I left completely full – really, ordering more than I needed but unable to resist sampling as much of the food as I could. My bill both nights, with a bottle of sake each time and some hot green tea, was about $45 with tip (to waitress and sushi chefs). Not inexpensive, no, but well worth the price for the exceptional quality of the food. If I lived near Sansu Sushi I think my bank balance would be in serious trouble.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Sansu Sushi. I wish I had such a wonderful sushi restaurant closer to home in South Jersey. I’d be hard-pressed to name a sushi place in Philadelphia, except perhaps Zama or Morimoto – which is as good. So if you find yourself in the Lansing area ever and enjoy good sushi, don’t miss visiting Sansu. I am certain it will end up becoming a favorite of yours as well.
4750 S. Hagadorn Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48823
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 4:30pm-10pm; Sun 3pm-10pm