Moshi moshi! Irrashaimase!
If you’re greeted at a sushi restaurant by by three men in immaculate chef’s whites calling out from behind the small sushi bar, “irrashaimase!” (roughly translating to “welcome” in Japanese) and “moshi moshi,” trust that you are in good hands. At Sushiya — North Liberty’s newest Pan-Asian restaurant focusing on approachable Japanese cuisine — they do exactly this, leaving memorable first (and second) impressions.
Like the kitchen staff, the front of house service at Sushiya is friendly and welcoming. On a recent visit, a gracious host greeted me and ensured my comfort without any hawkish hovering.
When there was a full house and only one waitress, service was on point and our meal was coursed nicely. The host and head chef were there to support the server, and when there was a miscommunication in our order, the matter was fixed with some green tea ice cream on the house.
Though the restaurant can get busy, it rarely feels chaotic, in part due to the spotless and minimally decorated 41-seat dining floor.
Sushiya’s menu is simple and straightforward; it’s not drowning in pages of “signature” rolls but rather focuses on a selection of traditional, sushi-bar fare like Tako Sunomono, tender pieces of octopus over cucumber with a smoky, vinegar sauce.
Their temaki, or “hand cone,” is basically a sushi-style burrito: pieces of fish or vegetables wrapped in a sheet of nori (dried seaweed) with sushi rice, spicy mayonnaise, cucumber and other garnishes. On my visits, Sushiya served their hand rolls promptly so that the nori was crisp and, most importantly, each grain of rice was discernable and not overcooked — the sign of a well-trained sushi chef.
The Spicy Scallop Nigiri (diced and spiced baby scallop) and the Hotate (giant scallop) Nigiri were both sweet and plump. Like all of the nigiri that I’ve sampled at Sushiya, the scallop and hotate were fresh, presented beautifully and didn’t fall apart in between chopsticks — as poorly made sushi often does.
For those who may not enjoy the taste of raw fish, there are many delicious small plates and entrees. The Taiwanese Crispy Chicken (marinated and fried chicken served with bright green sweet pickles) and the Korokke (two pieces of breaded, fried, curried mashed potatoes with a sweet, soy-based dipping sauce) are delicious and should satisfy most eaters.
Of the various entrées — like tempuras, teriyakis and pad thai — the Zaru Soba had a simple presentation and was fun to eat: Cold buckwheat noodles were piled high with a little pot of soy-mirin sauce to dip the noodles into and garnishes of sesame and scallion served on a tiny side plate.
While Sushiya excels at simple, straightforward and fresh food, the restaurant doesn’t lack personality. When planning a visit, it’s worth noting that on Thursdays, Sushiya receives orders of fresh uni (sea urchin roe) and it is delicious.
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