Wednesday, March 7, 2012

[HOT LIST] Sushi

Ahi Tuna Roll at Izakaya Sanpei, Canton. All covert phone photography by Nicole Rupersburg.

Full disclosure: I pretty much think sushi is the most boring of all the fashionable foods and I am quite frankly relieved that it seems as if the sushi craze is finally slowing down and stepping aside for good old American MEAT. For two reasons: (a) I'm not that much of a seafood fan in the first place (except for scallops, mmmmmm num num num scallops); and (b) the base components of any sushi dish - the stripped-down bare basics of sushi that would constitute as being authentically authentic in American minds - are pretty freaking boring. Raw fish + sticky rice + seaweed wrap. Meh. I understand (and agree) that it is better when fresh. So, okay, FRESH raw fish + sticky rice + seaweed wrap. Meh. Oh and then don't forget to drown it all in liquid sodium chloride - Americans heart salt.

So this is not about boring "authentic" sushi. (And please be reminded that if you use the word authentic I will punch you in your face.) Look, this is 'Merica. Sushi here is going to be 'Merican. Even sushi joints that have for-really-real Japanese sushi chefs shouting at people from behind the sushi bar are still going to cater to 'Merican palates, out of necessity. I like rolls to have some flayva. I say give me eel sauce and avocado; give me crispy tempura-battered shrimp and asparagus and splash it all with sriracha; slather that shit in cream cheese and bake it ... just don't put any mayonnaise on it because mayonnaise is disgusting, FACT.

Mexican Roll at Kabuki Sushi, Dearborn.

This sushi list is all about freshness, affordability and creativity. Places like Crave, Sakana and Inyo have outstandingly creative (and usually quite tasty) sushi but they are a far cry from affordable. Little Tree is affordable-ish but that shit is nasty. With thanks to my like-minded artist friend Angel Busque, who craves sushi the way I crave cheese, who helped me round out a list of fresh and affordable sushi joints. She says,
All I care about at the moment is freshness and being gentle on the wallet. That's the main thing really... Forget the people who are going to scrutinize those on authenticity, if they catch me ordering a roll with spicy mayo on my rare days, or if I'm not eating nigiri with my hands and dipping it fish side down, and putting too much soy sauce and wasabi ... What I care about is the food's freshness, the portions being good and filling; I want a place where I won't feel self-conscious about what I order, and if I'm willing to try new things that the staff and chefs are hospitable and eager to share their art. Those are what makes a sushi place a hot spot for me. 
Amen sister-girl.

#1 Ronin Sushi (Royal Oak)
I think I said it best when I said, " Ronin [sushi purists] might find [themselves] singing a different tune, one that embraces this NOT bastardized but modernized breed of distinctly American sushi (a song that may resemble the sonic warbles of Morrisey, but I get ahead of myself). One taste of sushi chef Kaku Usui’s contemporary creations will make you a nu-sushi songbird in no time." They make spicy tuna tacos, BLT rolls and ahi tuna pizza. At Ronin there's no shame in westernizing the flavors so long as it is done with craft; of all the trendy sushi "lounges" all over metro Detroit, there are none other like Ronin. (Pictured to the left: Ronin's Valentine's Day special, a snow crab roll in pink soy paper with cilantro + cucumber, topped with strawberries and served with ponzu sauce for dipping.)

#2 Sala Thai (Eastern Market)
My Official Sushi Consult Angel Busque says "the sushi at the Sala Thai is AMAZING. Had my eyes rolling to the back of my head. Close proximity to Eastern Market. It's got to be the reason why? Yes?" Hell, I'll buy it. You know what else I'll buy? The Rock and Roll - eel + avocado. Yes and yes. Or the Bagel Roll - cream cheese, smoked salmon, scallions and avocado. America: FUCK YEAH.

Kiss of Fire Roll at O Sushi, Dearborn
#3 O Sushi (Dearborn, Canton)
Hey, I like it. My Korean friend likes it too and that's official enough for me. (All facetious ignorant American joking aside, this place is owned by a Korean family so there are a lot of very good Korean items on the menu as well, like kimchi and bibimbap.) They have what is probably a disproportionate number of spicy rolls on the menu, which may in all seriousness be a cultural thing (Korean food tends to be spicy). Yipee for me! Order the Kiss of Fire Roll: tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado and jalapeƱo pepper covered with crunchy tempura flakes and hot sauce on top. This would more accurately be called the "Ring of Fire Roll" IFYOUKNOWWHATI'MSAYIN.

#4 Kabuki Sushi (Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Canton)
The sushi is notoriously good, the service notoriously bad. Thankfully for them, this is not a Service Hot List. They make ROUSes: Rolls of Unusual Size. Their "Giant Rolls" include an American Dream Roll and Rainbow Roll; 8 pieces under $10. They also have some funky rolls, like the Mexican Roll with tempura shrimp, avocado and hot sauce. Hot sauce should be on all sushi. Skip the soy and replace it all with hot sauce. *OR* ... sriracha!

#5 Crazy Sushi (Madison Heights)
From Angel: "Now this place is not written much about. It's in Madison Heights on 12 Mile between John R. and Dequindre. It's just one guy behind the sushi counter. I've never been let down and the prices are actually cheaper than Noble Fish. I think it's better than Noble Fish. (I do love Noble Fish like everyone else though, but you are ABSOLUTELY right, totally overrated. [Editor's note: yes, I said Noble Fish is overrated.]) There are only two small tables, a small counter space, and the sushi bar to sit at.) It's tiny, cheap, and the fish is fresh. 'Nuff said.

Honorable mention: Grab and Go Sushi (Ferndale)
Sushi Chef Josh Taylor, who previously worked as the sushi chef at Oslo (a moment of silence, please) and Tom's Oyster Bar, was recently in a car accident and is currently recovering. He assures me that he is recovering well, but Grab and Go will be closed until further notice. Next to Kaku at Ronin, Josh cranks out some of the most inventive sushi I've seen. While at Oslo he created a Tandoori Roll, a baked roll made with cream cheese, salmon, crispy tempura flakes and sweet curry sauce. I wrote in Real Detroit Weekly that, "It's almost as rich as a dessert with a delicately sweet curry scent." Grab and Go was scheduled to be this week's exclusive feature; I will not be substituting somewhere else in its place and will hold off until Josh is all healed and back at work.

Bubbling under Izakaya Sanpei Restaurant (Canton), Shiro Restaurant (Novi), Noble Fish (Clawson), WOW Sushi (Troy), Sushi House (Farmington), Ajishin (Novi), Edamame Sushi (Madison Heights), Cherry Blossom (Novi), Sharaku (West Bloomfield), Sushi Ko (Farmington Hills)

Ronin Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon