I promise to get back to my Italy trip report and reviews soon, but I had to take a break to do a quick write-up on Yamaki Sushi Bar, recently-opened on 20th Street just off Rittenhouse Square. I still mourn the closing of Sushi on the Square, a great little sushi bar that used to be where Yogorino now resides in that same area. Could Yamaki be a good substitute when I need a quick lunchtime sushi fix? Based on my one experience there, the answer is sadly no.
I entered the empty sushi bar at just about 1pm – not a good sign. In fact no other customers entered the entire half-hour or so I was there, which I should have taken as a warning. I took a seat at the sushi bar and was brought a menu fairly quickly. Yamaki is a pleasant-enough looking space for a largely take-out sushi bar – bright and airy, with some sushi bar seating and two tables for groups of 2 or more. There were quite a few choices listed on their menu from traditional rolls and nigiri to fancy specialty rolls, but I had to wonder where all of the fish was – there seemed a very paltry selection on display at the sushi counter itself. I decided to stick with some basics as it was a hot day and I didn’t want to weigh myself down. A 3-roll special was advertised quite prominently, but I went for a seaweed salad and two basic rolls instead: Spicy Tuna ($4.75), and Eel with Avocado ($5.25).
The seaweed salad ($4.50) was fine. Nothing exciting but tasty, about the same as I can get take-out from South Square Market or Food & Friends nearby. The major disappointment came from the rolls, however. These were the sorriest two maki rolls I think I’ve ever eaten. No, really, food court and supermarket rolls I’ve had are way better than Yamaki’s.
For one thing, the rice in the rolls was hot. Yes, HOT, as if just taken from the rice cooker. This emphasized the vinegar in the rice to an unpleasant extent. And there was hardly anything BUT rice and nori in these rolls, barely a sliver of eel and avocado in one and a laughable bit of tuna in the other. So little that I couldn’t even tell how fresh the fish was, there just wasn’t enough to even taste it.
Then there was the “Spicy Tuna” roll being unlike any other Spicy Tuna roll I’ve had. Instead of chopped tuna in a spicy mayo sauce, it was the aforementioned sliver of tuna with the roll just drizzled with hot chili oil.
Um…no. Not what I had in mind at all, thanks.
Also, both rolls were served inside-out style – perhaps to make them look bigger and use up more rice, and hide the paltry amount of fish? I don’t know.
Anyway, my total with tax was only $12.80, which doesn’t even add up based on the menu prices (I think there may be a 2-roll special as well as the 3-roll.) Mind you if I’d paid any more for this meal I’d have been even more annoyed and disappointed.
I hate to write such an overwhelmingly negative review of a restaurant, and checking comments elsewhere, others seem to have had better experiences at Yamaki than I have. Maybe I caught them on a bad day? With a new sushi chef? Skimping because they were short on fish? I have no idea. But nothing I tried in my simple lunch would encourage me to return and give them another try. Philadelphia still isn’t a great sushi town, but there are still much better options nearby, even if a little more costly.
Yamaki Sushi Bar
209 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103