Tag Archives: japanese food

Update: Green Tea Restaurant in Woolwich, New Jersey

Last May I posted an initial review of Green Tea Restaurant in Woolwich Township, New Jersey. My first impressions were a little lukewarm – I wasn’t thrilled with some of the deep fried options nor the chirashi, but thought some of the specialty rolls were good or showed promise.

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Yamaki Sushi’s No-Good Maki

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.

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Review: Sansu Sushi in East Lansing, Michigan

Chirashi Deluxe at Sansu Sushi

Chirashi Deluxe

Eel Hand Roll at Sansu Sushi

Eel Hand Roll

Sushi Bar at Sansu Sushi

Sushi Bar at Sansu Sushi

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Review: Sushi Blue in Lansing, Michigan

Sushi Blue Restaurant in Lansing, Michigan

Sushi Blue Restaurant in Lansing, Michigan

Most every Memorial Day weekend finds me in Lansing, Michigan for the annual MediaWest*Con convention. Lansing is not exactly a hot spot for outstanding foodie finds, sad to say, but I always try to avoid the ubiquitous national chains and sample a few different local restaurants if the buzz about them is positive. After two days on the roads and eating in rest stops, I was ready for some light and healthy food – sushi was beckoning me, as was Sushi Blue, a new (to me) sushi restaurant not far from the convention hotel. The head chef, Lexus Kim, had previously been sushi/head chef at Ai Fusion Sushi & Grill in Okemos, a well-regarded restaurant in East Lansing. I thought Sushi Blue would be well worth trying out since it was so close by – even if it’s location in a former “Mr. Taco” fast food building left quite a bit desired. Sadly, so did the meal I ended up tasting.

At Sushi Blue, they certainly have tried to dress up the interior as much as possible, but it’s still clearly an old fast food restaurant – now with paper lanterns, bamboo in the windows and blue lighting everywhere. Grabbing a seat in a booth, I began studying the sushi menu before the waitress appeared with the full offerings. Standard nigiri and maki rolls are offered, but the emphasis is clearly on house specialty fancy rolls – most of which feature tempura fried items (or entirely fried rolls), mayo sauces, cheese and other non-traditional sushi offerings. Some examples include the “Blue Willie” (shrimp tempura, tuna, salmon, snapper, avocado, crab salad, scallop ‘deep fried’ w/two kinds of sauce, $15,95), “Kentucky Derby” (chicken tempura, cream cheese, asparagus, cucumber, crab salad and special sauce, $11.95), “Las Vegas” (salmon, mozarella, crab salad ‘deep fried’ with two kinds of sauce, $9.95) and the Maui Roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese, asparagus topped with mango, avocado, mixed nuts and special sauce, $14.95).

A small selection of cooked Japanese and Korean dishes are also offered: typical Udon, Teriyaki, Katsu and Bulgogi. I really wanted light and fresh – not heavy and deep fried – so I went with the Chirashi ($14.95), which is always one of my standard choices when I really want to test out a sushi chef and kitchen. You can’t hide the quality of the fish when served plainly over seasoned rice, and it’s also a test to see if the restaurant just tries to fill you up with cheaper items (crab stick, tamago) or offers better tuna, salmon and snapper.

The Chirashi came with standard miso soup and salad, both of which were just that: quite standard. The miso did not have much fresh tofu in it but was soothing to the stomach. The dressing on the salad was more creamy and less gingery than I’m used to, more of a Japanese “Thousand Island” instead of ginger.

Chirashi at Sushi Blue

Chirashi at Sushi Blue

My Chirashi came fairly quickly and the box was quite full, attractively arranged with a pretty carrot butterfly on top. However, my first bite of salmon, tasted without any wasabi or soy, was very disappointing. While not “off”, it absolutely had a previously-frozen, less-than-fresh flavor – salmon that would be fine to cook with but was not what I’d consider “sushi quality”. The other selections were similarly disappointing in flavor and also texture, being quite chewy and lacking that melt-in-your-mouth quality that I crave in good sushi. The bowl was also quite packed with cheaper offerings as I feared it might, and lacking in any of the Japanese pickled vegetables one usually finds in a Chirashi bowl.

With copious soy and wasabi – and because of my hunger – I was able to eat it but not especially enjoy the meal. I could say based on this experience that it’s no surprise, perhaps, that so many of the rolls at Sushi Blue are covered in sauce, fried or otherwise cooked. Indeed, that was what I saw most other tables ordering. But given how the “naked” fish tasted I’m not inclined to go back and try them out. For a similar price of about $15, I can get much better quality Chirashi at home in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

My total, with a mug of green tea, was about $20 with tip. Later this weekend I will be going instead, no doubt multiple times, to Sansu Sushi in Okemos where I’m expecting a much better bang for my sushi bucks. Two years ago I’d had nearly every dinner for 5 nights there as I was staying at the nearby Marriott and had been blown away by the quality of their sushi. Sushi Blue seems quite popular among Lansing locals, but I have to wonder if it’s just from lack of sushi competition in the nearby area because the food and atmosphere was nothing, in my opinion, to get excited about.

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Birthday Week Celebrations, Part 1: Eastern Garden (Yes, once more…)

Spider Man Roll at Eastern Garden

Spider Man Roll

This past week I’ve been celebrating my birthday. I won’t talk about what exact age I’m marking this time around, but at least it’s given me an excuse to be treated to some delicious meals out on the town by different family members and loved ones. I’ll be reviewing two new places later this week which I’ve just enjoyed, but first up on my agenda was another return visit to one of my longtime favorites, Eastern Garden in Sussex, New Jersey. I was visiting my mother for the weekend and we always make plans to enjoy a meal at this great Japanese-Chinese restaurant when I’m in the area. I’ve written extensively about Eastern Garden before, but never can pass up giving them a little extra praise when I get the chance as I think they’re just that good.

Crunchy Roll at Eastern Garden

Crunchy Roll

This time around we primarily enjoyed a few old favorites off their menu, but we did try one new special maki roll, the “Spider Man.” This twist on a traditional Spider Roll was simply wonderful, not just in appearance (love the red and black fish roe to give it that Spider Man look!) but in flavor. The soft shell crab was perfect – fresh tasting, nicely batter fried and substantial in amount. Set off with cucumber, avocado, and just a touch of spicy sauce, nothing overpowered the flavor of the crab, only accenting it with a delicious combination of crunchy, salty and spicy flavors. I really hope this becomes a regular roll on their menu whenever soft shells are available – it was truly one of the best rolls I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. At $11.99 for the roll it was quite reasonably priced as well, as are all of the specialty rolls at Eastern Garden.

Chirashi at Eastern Garden


We also had an older, simpler favorite, the Crunchy Roll with crabstick, tempura “crunchies”, roe and spicy mayo. Comforting and tasty as always. For entrees, we had the Beef Chow Fun, loaded with fresh and crisp-tender vegetables, and their delightfully artistic and fresh Chirashi as well. Somehow there was nothing left to take home at the end of the meal – I don’t know how we ate all that food. The bill was all of $45 for two great specialty rolls, a sushi entree and a very generous noodle dish. We enjoyed the meal with a bottle of Casas Patronales Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorites for pairing with sushi and just lovely on a warm Spring day, and under $9 at the nearby Patrick’s Wine Barn.

As always, the service at Eastern Garden was top notch, and we gave special thanks to the sushi chef for that delightful new creation of his, the Spider Man roll. Do check it out if you get the chance. Eastern Garden now has a Facebook Fan Page where you can get announcements about new specials and also check out their full menu.

Next up on my review list are two places I’ll be looking at in detail: Philadelphia’s La Veranda, and Mullica Hill’s blueplate.

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